BY DAVID WALKER
You might think this article is about an amazing bird of prey here in our area, the Raptor. A Raptor can hear frequency and sound up to eight times better than we can. The Raptor’s visual acuity is over eight times that of humans. And the most amazing statistic? Peregrine Falcons can dive over four hundred kilometres an hour (250 MPH). There is nothing faster on this earth.
But this article is not only about the hawk, particularly the Harris Hawk. It is also about his spiritual brother, Carlos Munoz.
Like many of us, Carlos, and his Harris Hawks are not from here. He was born in Toluca, a city near Mexico City.
As a little boy, Carlos watched a TV nature documentary series, Last of the Wild. In one of the episodes, a falcon was featured. He was instantly fascinated. Then at the age of six, he saw falcons and hawks on a trip to the zoo. It was when he turned 13 that his heart was smitten. A relative entrusted to him a sick falcon that needed a lot of rehabilitation. Helped by a kind veterinarian, Carlos, among other things, would immerse the bird’s legs in water every day and gently massage them. He faithfully did this for six months. Sadly, upon recovery, someone stole his bird. His basketball coach, knowing of his unique passion, gave him another and from that moment on Carlos says his life was changed.
It was a different veterinarian, a falconer from the Association of Falconry, that became his guide, instructor, and mentor to all things birds of prey. Carlos would spend all his spare time as a teenager exercising the bird with “flys” in the park. He would read everything he could get his hands on regarding falcons (especially from Spain).
Carlos went on to graduate with a degree in Food Engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, one of the premier universities in the world and considered one of the most prestigious in Latin America. He was conflicted though in his chosen career. Some of the wasteful practices at the time, particularly restaurant “takeaways” went counter to his environmental sustainability philosophy.
Quite frankly, the jobs he had in the food industry could not compare to his growing unabashed passion for falcons.
You can imagine his joy and excitement when, several years ago, he arranged to come to San Jose del Cabo with his hawks and help develop an ecologically sound model that flies raptors throughout the grounds of some of our most prestigious hotels and resorts. The hawk scatters the flocks of pigeons, starlings, sparrows, and a few small animals that can become a significant nuisance. At that time, he worked with three hotels. Then Hurricane Odell hit, and budgets were cut. He reluctantly returned to Toluca.
Finally, in March 2020, a contract was signed with the Solaris Hotel and the Holiday Inn allowing Carlos and his wife, Gibrana, to move permanently to San Jose Del Cabo.
Carlos fulfills his passion in three ways: using his falconer skills to help control birds and animals; establishing a Bird Conservatory and Aviary for injured and orphaned birds; and providing regular flying demonstrations and educational talks in our area.
For his most important job, Carlos weighs one of his partners (he views the birds as partners, not pets) early in the morning. These days it’s usually around nine hundred and twenty grams. Next, he takes from the fridge a specific amount of meat (rabbit/mice/quail) and slices up approximately one hundred pieces. Then the partners are off to the resort. For the next four to six hours, Carlos places the Harris Hawk on various perches throughout the site, runs to another area and calls the bird to his gloved hand. His bird partner is hungry enough to swoop down to him at terrific speeds. At the completion of these exercises, three things have occurred. The nuisance birds and animals have gone. Second, some guests have been highly entertained. Picture yourself relaxing by the pool. Kids are playing, the distant ocean waves are breaking, and you are slowly drifting into sweet slumberland. Suddenly, a large bird flies overhead at tremendous speed. You hear the woosh of tapered wings, see the flash of a darting shadow, and hear a scary sound that startles all the prey in the area. What was that? Is it dangerous? Is it entertainment? Or is it part of this most incredible story of man and bird pursuing the ecological balance of our beautiful Los Cabos wonderland? It is a wonder to behold and a great story to tell friends when you get back home.
This means these hotels not only drive away pests in a way that is ecologically friendly (not spraying chemicals to kill birds and animals) but provides some of their guests with a unique experience.
The third and last thing that has happened this day is the falcon will now weigh precisely one thousand grams from his exercise/feeding regime.
Carlos has many stories of the powerful way his birds communicate with humans with their visual impact and presence, especially with children. Having observed this many times while the partners faithfully do their job, Carlos now devotes some of his time to “show and tell” educational activities. His love and passion for his birds is passed on mostly to youth in school and club settings but he has also been available for adult community events. Those wanting to be in touch with Carlos can reach him at email@example.com or 722.492.7386.
Carlos is also engaged in the care of injured birds of all species. Falconry, and the keeping of birds of prey (Falcons, Hawks, Eagles and Owls) are highly regulated around the world. UNESCO and other international bodies are engaged as are regulatory authorities here in Mexico. Federal licensing is required as well as various permits to keep the birds. This is where Carlos’ other passion comes into play. He has a small conservatory that is donation dependent to rehabilitate the sick and injured birds from our area.
With Carlos and his spiritual brothers living and working in San Jose del Cabo, everyone wins. Rascal pests are driven away and not killed by hotel owners. Visitors see things very few in the world have seen. Injured birds are rehabilitated. Kids are educated about the wonders of nature. Carlos gets to be and work with his loves. And just maybe, you could get to have a bird of prey sit on your arm!
David Walker, an artist, photographer, and competitive master’s athlete, recently completed the Baja Sur Cycling 500. He and his wife, Janet, live in San Jose del Cabo and Vancouver B.C.