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Master Falconer Tim O'Neill

Master Falconer Tim O'NeillMaster Falconer and Attorney are two titles you normally do not hear together. In fact, in the State of Florida there is believed to be only one person who holds both titles: Timothy P. O’Neill, Esquire.
Falconry is the art of hunting with hawks or training hawks to hunt in cooperation with a person. Tim had his first encounter with a Master Falconer on a weekend trip to Shakespeare’s birthplace while studying abroad in England during his sophomore year. Outside the home, there was a Master Falconer with his hawk. The Master instructed Tim to hold up a piece of meat for the bird, which was 700 feet in the air. Tim was skeptical and thought there was no way the hawk could see the little piece of meat in his hand from so far away; however, as soon as he lifted his arm, the hawk swooped down and swiftly, but gently took the meat from his hand. That one adrenaline pumping moment was all it took to spike Tim’s interest in falconry. Ten years later, he began the long journey to becoming a Master Falconer.

Becoming a Master Falconer is no easy feat. First, you must pass an extensive written exam administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with at least an 80%. If you pass the exam, you become an apprentice. The first thing an apprentice must do is build a three-part enclosure on their property with proper perches, shelters, and bath arrangements. The enclosure is then inspected by FWC. Once the enclosure has been approved, you can then obtain a bird. The hardest part of being an apprentice is finding a sponsor. The sponsor spends at least two years teaching the apprentice how to hunt and trap. After the apprenticeship, you become a General Falconer for five to seven years before finally becoming a Master Falconer. Currently, Tim has two Harris Hawks for abatement and owls for education. Tim is on the Board of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter. One of his favorite things about falconry is teaching the children and watching them light up with excitement while calling the birds to their fist.

Initially, Tim got into falconry for the hunting aspect. He loves to watch the hawks hunt for prey in their natural habit. Lately his falconry hobby has become more of a job. It now consists mostly of abatement, conservation,
and education. Abatement is the act of using a raptor to pursue depredating birds or other wildlife to mitigate damage the damage they cause. Tim has an abatement permit which allows him to use his hawks to abate
problems caused by migratory birds or other wildlife. His most recent job was at a restaurant located near the ocean. The restaurant hired Tim because it was actually cheaper to hire him and his hawks than to continue
compensating guests.

After reading an article about falconry becoming a lost art, Tim decided he needed to do his part to help grow the sport. He has served as a sponsor to four apprentices and at one time had two apprentices at once. Being a
sponsor is an extremely time-consuming commitment. There are daily phone calls with your apprentice, regular visits to see their bird, and hunting excursions.

Timothy P. O’Neill is an Associate at Cohen Norris Wolmer Ray Telepman Berkowitz & Cohen. His practice focuses mainly on real estate litigation and commercial litigation. Timothy was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Evansville and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law in 1997. He was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year. Following law school, Timothy clerked for two years for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit here in Palm Beach County and served as a law clerk in the United States Dis trict Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Lesley Riedstra

Loved this outing, even in the sweltering heat we had a great visit with these beautiful birds.

Greg McNeil

We had a great experience, got to see all the birds of prey before getting to meet an owl and falcon up close. We got to see the owl be fed and fly the Falcons ourselves with some assistance which was the best part of the entire session. 10/10 recommend!

Khrystsina Dubavik

Amazing experience! Very friendly people. We fully enjoyed our time spent there. Absolutely worth going!