Great Lakes Falconers Association
President of N.A.F.A. 1967
As the former owner of a popular restaurant, George’s culi-
nary skills were evident in the many picnics and barbecues
that he would host for his fellow falconers.
Hawk Chalk Vol. XLII No. 3 - December 2003
George Thomas Kotsiopoulos
— Excerpted from the Tribute by Bill Murrin
The falconry community has lost another great contributor to our
heritage when George Kotsiopoulos passed away on October 7,
2003. He was born on November 25, 1928 in Chicago, the son of
Greek immigrants. He is survived by his two sons, Tom and Chris.
George was a generous falconer who was willing to talk to new-
comers and offer some advice. He would reminisce about his early
days in falconry, explaining the limitations and the discoveries of
those times. He also loved to share his marvelous meals with his
guests and was happy to teach anyone how to cook his wonder-
ful dishes. Falconer friends would frequent his popular restaurant,
Pancake Francais. George was an exemplary host.
George’s early experience with falconry is interesting though per-
haps not so unique for the times. In the early 1940s he befriended
a boy, Ted Solomon, a couple of years his senior, who was at-
tempting his luck at falconry. George was enchanted with the idea
and wanted to join the adventure. The two of them would sneak,
after hours, into a local cemetery. They managed to trap a couple
of kestrels. From that point on George was hooked. This was a
time when there were very few falconry books available. There
were no falconers to teach a boy in Chicago at the time. It was
strictly learn on the y. Many birds ew away.
After the rst kestrel, George tried other birds such as sharp-
shinneds, coopers, and merlins, but none of species moved him.
After he started ying tundra peregrines he discovered his true
love. He endeavored to learn as much about them as he could.
One thing that moved him about passage peregrines is what he
called their aloofness. He liked to think of them as royalty, always
standing above the fray and never wearing their emotions on their
sleeves, in a manner of speaking. He would say other birds were
easy to read, but not tundra peregrines.
When George was old enough to drive, he would blind trap for
peregrines every fall. He kept accurate notes of his trapping days.
He tried trapping in different locations but found Lake Michigan
to be the best. He discovered here he could nd concentrations
of them. Over time he realized that weather patterns, unique to
peregrines, played a signicant role in his success rate. Whereas
hawks migrate on west to northwest winds after a low pressure
cell passed through and the barometer was rising, peregrines mi-
grated as the low was approaching, causing a falling barometer
and the winds were south to southwest. On such days he could
trap several peregrines. Once he had rened his knowledge — re-
alizing, for example, that even wind speeds played an important
role in concentrations — he no longer spent many days trapping.
Instead, he would trap just a few days in late September and/or
early October and would bring home enough peregrines for him-
self and his closest friends.
Many falconers were typically covetous of their trapping knowl-
edge, but George would share it with those he trusted. He would
joke (not maliciously) about the eastern falconers who would trap
peregrines while driving up and down the beaches, saying that
that was easy. He would exclaim, “Try trapping inland peregrines
and this will really make a trapper out of you!”
If you look at hawk counts of peregrines in places like Cape May,
New Jersey and compare the numbers to Lake Michigan, you’ll
understand his meaning. Cape May typically sees ten times the
number of peregrines and you won’t nd Lake Michigan per-
egrines sitting on the beach; they’re like a jet plane hell-bent for
South America. George was not trying to say one way is better
than another. What it demonstrates is that different circumstances
require different strategies. Falconers like George combined in-
tuition with experience to adapt to a unique environment. This is
how progress occurs and thanks to George, midwest falconers
beneted from his experience.
George’s hunting experience with peregrines was unique. Since
he lived in the heart of Chicago, it was difcult for a man of mod-
est means to frequently spend the time traveling outside city limits
to nd game birds. Besides, his job and family limited the time
available for such excursions. George was innovative. He ew his
falcons on wild city pigeons. The way he ew them was unique.
He found the most effective means to pursue this quarry was to y
pigeons found under viaducts, out of sight of the falcon. He would
cast his bird off and wait until it was over the viaduct and then run
under it making a lot of noise, ushing them for his bird. He would
say, “This was not classic falconry, but it’s all I had available.”
Understand: this is extremely difcult terrain to y in. There are
buildings everywhere and ights would go out of sight in seconds.
If the falcon caught the pigeon, it might be difcult to nd. If the fal-
con didn’t catch it, he had to rely on it nding its way back to him.
This led George to a concept he always promoted, “bonding with
your bird.” If the falcon is bonded to the falconer, she will seek
him out when ights would go out of sight, which was an abso-
lute must under the conditions in which George ew. Of course it
doesn’t always work out this way, but it is a principle he believed
was fundamental for long term success in falconry.
To George it was always a good feeling when his bird would return
to the point at which the ight originated. This is why he had res-
ervations about telemetry when it came on the scene. Instead of
the falcon seeking out the falconer, it is now the reverse. However,
the new technology shouldn’t deny the falconer the opportunity to
continue to work with sound old principles, therefore he eventu-
ally decided to invest in this innovation conceding that it offers one
a sense of security even if you choose not to chase your bird but
wish to wait for it to return to you. He felt this is all the more im-
portant with hybrids, which falconers have an obligation to bring
back home unlike passage birds where there is no problem if they
return to the wild. Bonding was the bottom line with George; if you
have a good relationship with your bird, more often than not, you
will have greater success in falconry.
A situation occurred which provides an example of his bonding
principle. George’s son Tom told the story to me since he per-
sonally observed it many years ago. George had a tiercel prairie
called Alex. Somehow, while the bird was still hooded on George’s
st, Alex took off and was ying blind. George instructed Tom
to keep quiet and then proceeded to whistle from his lips. Alex
Falconry Uncommon, published in 1999, with the addition of a
new chapter on Japanese falconry.
George kept in contact with many highly respected European fal-
coners throughout his years in falconry and in his later life, spent a
lot of time visiting falconers and attending meets there. These trips
meant a lot to him in that they provided a means of reaching back
to our falconry heritage.
George was a romantic who viewed life with higher principles in
mind. He was not content with the status quo; there were always
different and higher principles to consider and he sought them out
vigorously. The romantic in him exuded a charm rarely seen in
men. Ladies have frequently referred to him as a gentleman with
deep tenderness and a caring heart. Indeed, George’s heart was
always in the right place, even when one might consider it mis-
placed. You could never be angry with him for opinions or actions
you might disagree with since you knew there was never any mali-
cious intent. He had very strong convictions, but they were always
with good intentions in mind.
When sharing thoughts about George, Jack Oberg perhaps said
it best: “It doesn’t matter who ies what bird, how well they y it,
or who one knows. Life comes down to what kind of human being
one is. George was one of the best!”
George and good friend Stan Marcus, both former NAFA Presidents
George K at Dan Covers, May 1973
circled him, tightening the circle with each pass until George was
able to catch him, as Tom put it, like a football. Tom said it was ob-
vious the bird was seeking George and looking to be rescued.
George was a diehard passage man. He occasionally took eyes-
ses, but preferred passage peregrines over anything else. This is
one important reason George didn’t practice falconry for 20 years,
from the early 1970s on. Once passage peregrines were off limits,
his enthusiasm waned and he always worried that he would die
before he’d be able to take another. His premonition, unfortunate-
ly, turned out to be true.
George was proud of the things accomplished in Illinois. He
was the driving force behind the formation of the Great Lakes
Falconers Association (GLFA). It was the rst or second regional
(not national) association in the country. GLFA was not meant to
be a state club; it was founded as a regional club since there were
no state clubs at the time. The scope of GLFA was reduced to a
state club once the surrounding states formed their own clubs. He
was proud to be one of the founders of GLFA and to have served
as Director and President.
Other accomplishments for which George was noted were his
NAFA Presidency in 1967, Director-At-Large and Secretary posi-
tions in the 1960s. While he was not a founding member of NAFA,
he was one of those falconers who played “an important part in
the formation of NAFA,” as explained by Hal Webster in his pa-
per Humble Beginnings. He loved to talk about those rst NAFA
Meets in Centerville, South Dakota. He enjoyed a particular jack-
rabbit ight (I believe in ‘62), where his redtail ew with a variety
of other hawks (gang hawking was popular back in the 1960s and
70s). Just about every bird hit the jack and eventually his bird and
another’s bound to it almost simultaneously. Don Anderson lmed
the ight, capturing the excitement of it all.
George was fascinated with the history of falconry and collected
an extensive library of classic books, many in foreign languages.
He wished to see many of these works translated into English,
but only managed to publish two books. The rst was The Art &
Sport of Falconry, published in 1969, and the second reprint was