New falcon for the one that got away |

New falcon for the one that got away

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
David Armer/Special to the DailyBanshee, a hybrid gyrafalcon and saker, was purchased by the Air Force Adademy's falconry program to replace a bird that flew away at the Birds of Prey World Cup in 2005. The Vail Valley Foundation donated the money to buy the falcon.

BEAVER CREEK ” When Liberty flew away, the Air Force Academy needed another Bird of Prey.

At the 2005 Birds of Prey World Cup races, “Liberty,” a prairie falcon with the academy’s falconry program, got caught in an updraft during a performance and disappeared into the forest.

After two days of searching, members of the program were unable to retrieve Liberty. That’s when the Vail Valley Foundation, which puts on the Birds of Prey, stepped in and donated $1,000 to the falconry program.

“We felt horrible when they weren’t able to find her,” said John Dakin of the Vail Valley Foundation. “That’s not the thing you want to happen, especially when you have an event named after it.

“They were up here to help us out, so we felt we needed to do something to help them out.”

With the donation, the Air Force’s falconry club was able to purchase a new bird, Banshee, this summer.

Banshee, a white hybrid gyrafalcon and saker, has been a great addition, said to John Van Winkle, assistant officer in charge of the falconry program.

“She’s an incredible bird. She loves people and loves attention,” Van Winkle said. “Her intelligence is scary. She’s like a big Einstein.”

When Liberty flew away, the program was down one of its two performance birds.

“Banshee is a show bird and a performing bird,” Van Winkle said. “She has trained so well and is so good with people. She does what she’s supposed to.”

Earlier this fall, the falconry program brought Banshee to an Air Force home football game for a performance.

“She did well, as expected,” Van Winkle said.

As for a return to the World Cup venue at Beaver Creek, Van Winkle said Banshee will come if the conditions are ideal.

“We’re going to take a harder look at weather … and what the wind is,” Van Winkle said. “With increased wind, it’s easier (for the bird) to get stuck in an updraft.”

Dakin said the foundation is still considering the option of the falconry program coming back. The birds were not here for the 2006 World Cup.

Staff Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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