Hundreds in Kearney for Falconry Meet

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If you look up at the skies around Kearney this week, you may see a couple hundred extra birds flying around.

It's because the North American Falconry Association and the International Falconry Association's annual meeting is in town. Around 500 people from around the world have gathered because of their love for falconry, including 15-year-old Laura Leix, who was just nine years old when she received her first bird of prey.

"I called him, and he came. Then I left him fly and walked a little bit and did the same. It's something special when you do this. You know the falcon, he knows you, he has trust in you, you're a special person for him. That's a great feeling I think," said Leix, who came from Germany with her parents.

Those who love these birds of prey say they're not pets, but rather partners in the art of hunting.

"The difference between keeping a pet and falconry is that when you keep a pet, you ask the pet to become part of your life. In this particular case, we ask the birds to allow us to become part of his life," said Ralph Rogers, who organized the meeting. "We turn him lose every day, we provide him with the opportunity to be a completely wild bird. All we're asking him to do is allow us to participate."

And those at the conference are doing just that, participating by helping and watching the birds hunt. In fact, many of the international attendees could not bring their birds and came simply to see the birds fly in the Nebraska skies.

"America is such a great, beautiful country, with a lot of space. So we in Europe, we're living in like small boxes, so I think for every falconer, he looks to the States, and say, I want to see it if they're going hunting in this beautiful land," said Laura's mother, Elisabeth, who is also a falconer.

It's a passion that falconry enthusiasts hope to share with more people around the world. The birds of prey are available for viewing at the Kearney Holiday Inn through Friday.