Meet MyFriends! Iola & Jack and Murphy the Hawk

“What’s the most unique pet you’ve seen in this city?” 

This a pretty odd question that is usually followed by answers that spark even more curiosity! A lot of us might have met raccoons snacking away in a cafe, some have seen fishes in a tank with wheels, but a hawk might be one of the last answers on our minds!

Iola Veal and Jack Chan are a couple living in Bangkok with a beautiful and majestic hawk named Murphy. They didn’t seek out to have an Exotic Pet as a companion, although the universe had other plans! The story stems from a journey of giving Murphy a second chance to spread his wings!

Today, MyFriend would like to take you to meet them during a little coffee break on the rooftop of COSMOS Cafe, a regular spot for Iola, Jack, and Murphy the hawk!

Please introduce yourself and your beloved pet

Jack: I’m Jack, this is Iola, and that’s Murphy!

Iola: Murphy is 6 years old.

Why did you choose a hawk?

Iola: We didn’t choose to have a hawk as a pet, it was an accident.

Jack: We didn’t seek out to own a hawk actually. We have two cats as well, but we have murphy now too. Murphy was given to Iola by her boss, basically. And the boss’s family bought Murphy because they had a lot of pigeons around their house, and they wanted to scare the pigeon’s away,

I guess they did some research about how the best way to get rid of them, and one of them is to get a bird of prey like a hawk to scare them away. So they bought this hawk where they didn’t realize they needed to spend a lot of time training the hawk to do things and to take care of the hawk, and so there was a point where they didn’t have enough time to do that, so they couldn’t take care of him and he was sitting alone in their dark basement and just being fed and being angry and scared, and so it wasn’t a very good life for him. But luckily, the previous owners realized that. They knew that Iola knew a bit about birds, they just gave it to her as a gift.

Were you scared of him at first? 

Iola: For me, no because I grew up with birds. I’ve looked after a lot of wild birds. I’ve had birds of prey I’ve rescued from the wild as well. I can read him quite easily, mostly I know what’s going on with him. But for you, it might’ve been a steeper curve right?

Jack: It was a learning curve, but I’m getting better at reading him. They have a much closer relationship than I do with him. I mean, he loves her, of course, that’s his mom, so she can do no wrong. But me, he kinda just likes, he just tolerates me, like most people. But he just kinda tolerates me, so yeah, over time you learn. If you observe, I think any animal, not just a bird, if you just pay attention and observe, then you can see little changes that you can learn how to behave around them.

What made you fall in love with him?

Iola: I think it’s his wildness actually, the fact that… they say with hawks, they can be trained but never tamed and it’s true. If you leave them alone if you start backing off from him and not banning him like we are now with other people, and different situations, he will become increasingly wild, and that’s when he becomes dangerous. I love that wildness about him. And the fact that he’s always going to be his own animal, he doesn’t belong to anybody.

Murphy is molting, do eagles molt in the wild?

Iola: The molting process in the wild is different for different species of birds, so if you have small passerine birds, they might do it in one go. But larger birds, because feathers take a lot of energy to create and grow, so the larger birds tend to do it in two steps.

The first step begins when they’re breeding when they’re making the nest and they’ll have a partial molt, it tends to go from the outer wing to the inner wing. So it’ll start with the larger feathers, maybe on the tail or the primary feathers on the wing. And they’ll lose them gradually, very gradually. And that will happen in April. And then it will stop when they migrate because most birds migrate and need a lot of energy again to migrate. They need to hunt. That’s why you get the symmetry of the feathers being lost on either side of the wing., and so they migrate and when they reach the wintering grounds, they can rest again, then the second phase of the molt. So it doesn’t put too much pressure on them when they’re hunting and feeding, obviously, they need to keep that balance.

What are the activities you enjoy with each other the most?

Jack: The most interesting, most exciting, and most magical as I said is having him fly freely. So there are moments, it’s been a while, but there are moments where we can have him the perfect weight, the perfect training, rhythm, and routine, and he can get off from the tether which connects him to us, and he’s just flying freely. And when you see that happens, and of course, it’s his nature to fly freely, so it’s really exciting, that’s one of the best times I’d say.

Iola: But your heart is always in your mouth because when we fly him, he’s got to be a very specific weight, but it has to be exactly correct. He has a flight weight that you determine, which is 590 grams. Less, if he’s too low in weight, he won’t have the energy and fly and come back to you he will sit in a tree. And you’ll be waiting for 45 minutes for him to come down. If he is too heavy, again, he’ll sit in a tree and not come back. So your heart is always in your mouth “is he going to come back?” or “is he going to hunt something?” and then we have to chase him and then swap the food out, so he doesn’t get upset when he’s caught something and you just take it away.

Jack: Yeah, when you have a hawk and you want to fly the hawk, it’s like having a boxer. You have to train, and you have to have the right weight, so it’s really like having a boxer. That’s what you have to do, training and weight management. Those are the two key points for flying.

One great thing about being in Thailand is that we get to travel with him. Almost everywhere. So we’ll go on little trips, and we’ll leave Bangkok and go to the beach or go into the mountains and we take him everywhere. The Thai people and a lot of the Thai businesses are so friendly to us that we can sit in a cafe like this, we can sit in restaurants and we can take him to hotels. That’s great, just to be able to travel with him.

Is it easier to travel with Murphy? Compared to “normal” pets

Jack: Yes, he’s good.

Iola: Yes, 100%, he’s easier than a dog or a cat to travel. He’s so good.

Jack: If we’re in a car driving with him, he’ll just sit on her lap. He doesn’t have to be in a special box or something like that, he won’t cause any fuss. If our cats are in the car with us, they have to be in boxes and they’re crying all the time. Meow meow meow, please let me out. So it’s just like, okay, that’s how they are. Murphy’s very well-behaved I would say.

Iola: It goes back to the “trainable but not tamable” thing. You just gotta continue training all the time. It does not ever stop. Like a cat or a dog, which is a domesticated animal, once they’re trained, they’re trained. They don’t forget, and they’re good about it. But him? It’s gotta be all the time. Or else he’ll just revert back to being wild again because he’s not domesticated.

Jack: They call that type of training “Manning”. So basically, the more exposure he gets, the more we take him out, the more he sits in a cafe, the more he sees other people, the more he hears cars, and motorcycles, passing him,  the less he’ll be scared of them. So he becomes familiar with the environment around him with strangers, with other animals, and things like that. So that’s the reason why, even when he’s not flying, we will take him for a walk, and Iola walks him almost every day. And so, it’s not because she wants to show everybody, maybe half of it is, “hey everybody! I have a hawk!” But the main point is that it’s really part of his training. For him to go around and see other people, to be exposed to noises, to sounds and sights that he doesn’t see when he’s in the house with us. The more that he does that, the more relaxed he is, and that’s why he’s a great travel buddy. We take him in the car and he’s really relaxed because we put in the time for the training.

If Murphy could talk, what would he say to you?

Iola: What do you think? I’m not sure. He just says buurrrrr. He’s talking now.

Jack: I don’t know, when he does try to communicate verbally, he does this sound that sounds like what she just did. Like, burr burrr! And it sounds like, for some reason we interpreted that as him saying “murph.” So we started calling him “Murphy”. There’s this movie with Matthew McConaughey called Interstellar.

In the movie, his daughter’s character’s name is Murphy. But they called her Murph. I don’t know why but someone made a supercut of every time either Matthew McConaughey or other actors say Murph Murph Murph, and it’s all supercut like, murphmurphmurph. And it kinda sounds like the noises he makes. And so we started calling him, that’s why we named him Murphy and Murph.

Any tips and advice for those who want to become a hawk parent?

Iola: I’d say research really really really well, number one. You’ve got to read a lot, and you’ve got to learn a lot about these animals, and also try and join a group. Go out with them, because they’re fearsome.

They’re predators. They’re wild. You’ve got to learn how to read them. And you’ve gotta know that you have to be very calm with them. Because he can feel energies. And he can see energies. Actually, they can see a whole different wavelength of light to us, he can see much more than we do. So he knows when people are nervous, he knows when they’re frightened, and he reacts accordingly. Which is not good actually.

So you’ve got to be very calm, and you’ve got to practice with a group first and get trained before you even own a hawk, you have to have a lot of space. They have to have their own room. They have to have a garden. Research and go get familiar with a hawk, an eagle, or an owl, but they’re very difficult to look after. It’s not easy. You can have problems if you don’t research.

Jack: I think that can be applied to animals in general, that’s why you have a lot of stray dogs and cats. People adopt them and then they can’t take care of them anymore because they either didn’t do the research, or they didn’t realistically face how much time, energy, and money it would cost to take care of this animal, and so you have these stray animals, on the street, which is a shame, so I think even more difficult is an animal like murphy, like a hawk, that’s not as easy as a dog or a cat because the resources are a very different type of style that you have to prepare so. Definitely do your research as Iola said.

How can someone approach you if they’re interested in Murphy on the streets? 

Iola: Always ask first. Like some people, they just come right in and start asking him to fly, and making funny noises and he doesn’t really like it. If you really want to get to know a hawk, you have to do it over a period of time. He will not accept you immediately like a dog might. Slowly slowly. Like, if you want to hold him, then you have to spend enough time with him. It’s manning again so he can get to know you. I had to sit for hours and hours and hours in the same position when he first came whilst he got used to me. Takes a long time.

MyFriend would like to thank Iola Veal and Jack Chan, as well as Murphy who came by to say hi to us while sharing their story and journey! All while sharing insightful tips (and warnings) about taking care of an exotic pet such as a hawk!

We would also like to express our gratitude to COSMOS Cafe which was generous enough to allow us to film in their serene venue, with the delicious coffee that pampered our team! Pssssst! The snacks were also super good! 👀

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