As the queen’s guests feast on roasted chicken at a royal banquet in Medieval Spain, a majestic falcon suddenly swoops overhead in pursuit of prey. The crowd gasps and cheers as they watch the powerful bird soar toward its target, then dive at an impressive speed to catch it. 

The spectacle is part of a daily routine for Master Falconer Ken McCauley and the three falcons who provide breathtaking entertainment at Chicago’s Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Behind the scenes, Ken’s time is spent training and caring for the falcons, a job he said he couldn’t do without Zachary Kline, DVM, an Associate Veterinarian specializing in avian, ZooMED (also known as Zoological Companion Medicine), and domestic small mammal medicine at VCA West Suburban Veterinary Hospital in Westmont, IL.

Team Effort

Caring for falcons is a very specific process that requires years of training and experience to perfect. Monitoring their diet, for example, is one of Ken’s more detailed duties. He weighs each of the falcons every day, notes fluctuations, and adjusts their food intake accordingly. Maintaining a healthy weight ensures the Medieval Times falcons don’t lose their natural instinct to hunt, which is key to motivating them to exercise.

Much of the care the falcons receive is a joint effort between Ken and Dr. Kline, who has specialized training in avian and ZooMED Animal Medicine. He developed a special interest in birds of prey while working at the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois, so he was excited to have the opportunity to care for the Medieval Times falcons.

Ken feels equally fortunate to have someone with Dr. Kline’s unique experience and expertise as part of the care team.

“It's been an amazing relationship. He’s very knowledgeable, gives me a lot of advice on how to check the birds, and is very thorough on his examinations,” says Ken. 

Dr. Kline examines the falcons three to four times a year, making house calls to the Medieval Times castle. A typical physical examination includes checking feather health, looking for signs of inflammation in their joints, and checking the feet for pressure sores, a common problem in birds. Dr. Kline administers vaccinations and even helps maintain the falcons’ beaks and nails.

“These birds who are not actively hunting in the wild don't have the opportunity to grind down their beak and talons, which causes them to become overgrown and can impede perching and eating,” explains Dr. Kline. “We actually use a Dremel tool to carefully shape the beak and the nails. I become a little bit of a beak artist when I'm working there.”

In between visits to the castle, Ken knows he can consult with Dr. Kline any time he needs advice or has a question.

“I'm on a text basis with him, which is really great. He's very good about responding back to me pretty quickly.”

Caring For Unique Pets

Dr. Kline sees a wide variety of animal species at VCA West Suburban. Besides the famous Medieval Times falcons, his patients include many species of birds, rabbits, reptiles and even fish! Dr. Kline says that one of the parts of his job he enjoys the most is educating clients on the unique needs of ZooMed pets.

“Providing information about natural history, providing information about husbandry, providing information about behavior of these animals that is not as well known, that educational aspect is really important to me,” he notes. “I really get a kick out of being able to describe the wonders of the animal kingdom to those who I am in service to.”

Dr. Kline applies his advanced training in avian, ZooMed, and domestic small mammal animal medicine to provide all species in the western Chicago suburbs with the highest possible standard of care. To learn more about Dr. Kline or to make an appointment, we invite you to visit the VCA West Suburban website

““It's been an amazing relationship [with Dr. Kline]. He’s very knowledgeable, gives me a lot of advice on how to check the birds, and is very thorough on his examinations,” says Ken. ”