Discovering Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

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Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

I had a half-day off from work while I was living in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  I didn’t just want to spend it on my company’s compound or in the city having a drink.  I was looking for other things to do in the city.  I came across a webpage for the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. My favorite birds are falcons and eagles.  I checked my watch and picked up my phone.  I crossed my fingers and called them hoping they had space on their 2:00 pm hospital tour.

I caught a taxi and made my way to over the hospital.  I made the tour by about 2 minutes.  While they finished checking everyone in, I took a seat in the nicest hospital waiting room I have ever been in.  The hospital waiting room has plush seating and nice tables.  The room was unique.  It had small stands to set a falcon on while waiting to be called back to the examine area.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

The tour starts with an education exhibit on the history of falconry and its importance in the UAE.  Falconry is a traditional part of the UAE desert life. Originally done to provide food it is now a national pastime.  Traditionally, Peregrine and Saker falcons were used.  These birds were captured from the wild and trained to hunt the houbara bustard.  The houbara bustard is a large bird found in arid regions.  Traing the falcons takes special skill and time.  The birds are kept with a leather hood over their eyes and a small restrain is placed on its leg.  Over time the bird is trained to make short flights and catch a lure.  From there it is taught to catch live pray.

As falconry in the UAE moved from survival to a sport, over hunting destroyed the nation’s population of falcons and houbara bustard.  Today wild falcons are protected in the UAE and hunting is banned due to the almost extinction of the houbara bustard.  There is currently a captive breeding program in hopes of reestablishing the houbara bustard population in the UAE.  This will then help reestablish the breeding population of falcons in the region.  Most falcon hunting takes place in the deserts of Pakistan where the population of houbara bustard still exists but is threated.  It is not uncommon during the cooler winter months to see a falcon riding in first class on a flight from UAE to Pakistan.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

A stuffed Houbara Bustard

The falconer stops feeding the birds several days before the hunt.  The bird will not hunt unless they are hungry.   Once it captures its prey, the bird is reward and is fed.  The bird is only used once.  A hunting party will have upwards of 50 birds for several days of hunting.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Falcons from around the world come to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital for treatment.  The hospital is on of the few in the world to specialize in treating falcons.  They are world leaders in research as well. On average the hospital treats 6000 birds a year.  Treatments range from feather replacement to talon manicures to more serious injuries.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

After the education tour, I entered the treatment room.  About 24 falcons were in for treatment.  Each bird has a leather hood on and silently waits for its turn for treatment.  The bird range in size and are a mix of Peregrine falcons, Saker falcons as well as a few other types.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Before treatment, the falcon is put under anesthesia to minimize the stress of the procedure. The hospital made custom mask for this.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

The bird is examined and the wings are check for missing or damaged feathers. If it has any missing or damaged feathers they are replaced.  The hospital keeps a range of feathers in stock for this procedure.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

After that the talons are trimmed and sharpened to keep the bird in hunting sharp.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Once the procdure is done and the bird is awake he returned to his post and awaits pick-up from his owner.  The staff brings out the resident falcon.  She is a small falcon that was rescued.  She is friendly and rather cute.  She is the hospitals mascot.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Depending on the birds in for treatment, the hospital might let you hold one of the larger falcons.  While I was there they had a Saker there that was available to hold.  She was a large falcon and the staff let one of the teenagers on the tour feed her.

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The hospital has a air-condition aviary and provides summer boarding for bird owner.  We walked through this area and watched some of the bird enjoy their time off.  I was surprised that it wasn’t more luxurious given that falcons are easily $20,000 plus birds.

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

I still love birds of prey but I am not a fan of any sport that requires starving the bird before it can be used.  As well as the lax laws on hunting the houbara bustard in Pakistan.  I did enjoy getting to hold the falcon and the conservation work done by the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.

Disclaimer:  I was not compensated for this post in any way.  I visited the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital without informing them of my status as a blogger.  This post does contain a affiliate link to Viator.

What do you think of falconry?  Would you visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital?

Discoving Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

24 Replies to “Discovering Falconry at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital”

  1. Nicole

    This is so fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading about your experience and I cannot wait to share this with my followers. I know they will love it as much as I did.

    Reply
  2. Meg Jerrard

    What an amazing experience – my husband is crazy over birds, and this sounds right up our alley. I love that it’s a treatment facility as well and not a zoo. We would absolutely go 🙂

    Reply
  3. Christopher

    Wow the size of those Falcons talons are nuts. I’d hat to be a mouse running in fields with that bird flying over head… In other news The UAE is definitely on my to-go-to list 🙂

    Reply
  4. Jackie

    It’s really nice to see such a specialized hospital for these birds. The hospital seems very well-equipped to properly treat and care for the birds. I’m not a fan of sports that involve animals. However, I do try to understand all sides when the sport involves hunting, as there could be centuries old traditions and ways of life that brought about the practice. Still, it’s typically something that should not be continued in modern times when hunting for survival is not necessary in so many places around the world.
    Jackie’s current road . . . 15 Photos to Make You Swoon Over PragueMy Profile

    Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      I feel like the way it is practiced in the Middle East is more about status than protecting traditions. At least in the USA, it is more for show and education rather than hunting.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      I totally agree. I changed my opinion of falconry after my visit. I no longer think it is a great thing for the sport. Now on the other hand, what they did in London to help get rid of pigeons I like. There they hired the hawk to fly around and just be present. The hawk get a treat when the fly back to the trainer.

      Reply
  5. Stacey Valle

    I love falcons!! They’re truly beautiful! One of my most favorites is the peregrine falcon. I always find them really fascinating. That’s great that you decided to explore, finding something to do 🙂 Like you, I’m honestly not fond that they were starving the bird. It’s sad to hear that and about the hunting as well! Hopefully there will be more population of it!

    Random but I actually wanted to volunteer at the local bird of prey rehabilitation but they aren’t accepting any volunteers for now. I’m looking out for that one!
    Stacey Valle’s current road . . . Understanding Slavery: Whitney PlantationMy Profile

    Reply
  6. Arzo Travels

    Seriously this is what is on my lis for ages. I am headed to the Emirates in a few weeks and I have always been fascinated by falcons (though I am actually very scared of birds) and my dream is to do a tour with them (and the hospital would be something on top for me). Making me more excited 🙂

    Reply

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