The aim of training is to shape the bird into perfect physical performance and to teach it to catch prey successfully. Raptors are supreme athletes and, as with human athletes, their body fat has to be reduced, but not depleted totally; their muscles have to be built-up. The body weight, though, is not the main indicator for hunting motivation; experienced falconers will also closely monitor the behaviour of the bird.
It is very useful to monitor the weight daily with proper scales and to document it in written form. Weight will give a good indication of the bird’s appetite and general health. Different exercises have been invented to improve fitness depending on the species of the hawk, these can be important if it is not possible to fly it on wild game at least every second day.
The principle is that the food is given as reward just after the bird has put some effort for flying. For longwings like falcons lure training, kite or balloon training works well. Shortwings like goshawks or Harris Hawk do best with flying from fist to fist of two falconers or with vertical jumping.
The use of bagged game (if allowed by the local laws and depending on national or regional norms and standards) may be acceptable, but is not promoted by the IAF. Live animals, used in this way, must be handled carefully and killed quickly after they have been caught, as with wild prey.