Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Falcon

Fixing falcons at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

In United Arab Emirates by Jaclynn Seah0 Comments

The Falcon is the national bird of Abu Dhabi and a big part of its ancient traditions and history. In the Middle East and UAE, many people still keep falcons for sport and hunting purposes, and they are often seen as a symbol of wealth. Since falcons aren’t your average domestic pet, they do need special care beyond your ordinary vet when they get sick. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest one in the world and you can actually visit it to see these majestic birds up close.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Sign

Not a real falcon

Visiting tips:

  • The 2 hour tour cost 173 AED
  • When I visited, there were two tours available – 10am and 2pm.
  • Make sure you make an online booking first because they’ll turn you away if you don’t have one. That happened to us the first time we dropped by.
  • Location: near Al Falah, close to Abu Dhabi Airport

 

VISITING THE FALCON HOSPITAL

We headed there on our last day in Abu Dhabi for the 2pm afternoon tour – me after mangrove kayaking and the girls after their brunch. We were joined by another German couple and an Indian man and ushered into the museum area, where our guide gave an introduction to the place and talked about the history of falcons and the hospital.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Museum Guide

Our guide giving us the lowdown on falcons and their history

The museum was alright, but the part I liked most was when we headed into the actual clinic area and saw the actual falcons waiting to be treated.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Clinic

Check out all the falcon patients perching in the clinic!

It was pretty cute seeing all these hooded falcons quietly perched on little green bars, waiting to be attended to – the owners usually drop them off in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day. The floor is lined with plastic so they can easily clear the bird poop.

The falcons all have the hoods over their eyes to keep them calm, but though they can’t see you, they can hear you pretty well. I got pretty close up to take pix of them, and those heads would swivel right around like the Exorsist, almost 180 degrees towards you – a little freaky but super cool.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Closeup

I can imagine this falcon eyeballing me through that hood

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Head Turn

This one could hear my camera and seemed a bit puzzled. Look at its body and head – they are pointing in 2 different directions

 

What I also liked was how the doctors gave a very thorough explanation on the work that the hospital does, which included a live demonstration on two birds to show how they treat the falcons. First they showed us how the sedate the falcons with some anesthetic gas that knocks the bird out temporarily so it’s calm enough for the doctors to handle them safely. The gas cone is safer than syringes which might send the bird into a frenzy – once the bird’s head is out of the cone it regains consciousness quite rapidly.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Gas

Calming the falcon

The doctors also told us a lot about falcon care which is quite interesting. Falcons need quite a lot of special care, especially when it comes to their talons and their wings. They need regular pedicures to ensure their talons don’t get too long and poke themselves, and their wings are so delicate that just one broken feather can throw off their balance completely. The hospital keeps a whole stock of molted wing weathers (falcons molt every year) in case they need to replace any broken feathers.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Docs

Docs at work

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Beak

Checking out the beak

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Claw

The talons get trimmed, and then filed with a drill bit

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Wings

The wings feathers are checked to see if any of them are broken – long wooden skewers (like satay sticks) and light aluminum wires are used to transplant the weathers – these are light enough so it doesn’t affect flight

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Feather

The hospital actually keeps an entire drawer full of feathers, and they use these spare feathers to repair wings if necessary. They last for about a year until molting occurs

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Checkup Docile

Groggy falcon regaining consciousness

We also got a chance to carry some of the falcons that they use for education purposes. We were actually there the same time as a local newspaper who were doing some photos – they took some pix of us holding the birds – there is definitely one of me pretending to kiss the bird.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Hobby Falcon

This is a hobby falcon. It’s a smaller type of falcon that makes the cutest ‘peep’ sound. They let school children carry this one and I love it, it’s utterly adorable.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Falcon

You need a glove to carry this falcon so its sharp talons don’t scratch you up. This one tried to nibble on my fingers and totally gave me side eye

 

We got to explore the rest of the facility beyond the clinic area. There’s a surgery where they do more serious surgical treatments on falcons, and the falcon resting facility. Surprisingly, you can find some owls here as well, rescues that don’t really have any other place to go.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Owl

Two owls were found on the grounds and are kept in captivity because they wouldn’t survive in the wild

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Falcon Enclosure

Air conditioned room to mimic their natural mountain habitat temperature

I really enjoyed this visit and found it very educational, and I definitely recommend this to anyone who’s headed to Abu Dhabi. If you do the 3 hour tour, you can actually get the opportunity to see them fly around an aviary as well which might be pretty cool – I’d like to see that if I go back in future.

Want to see what else I did in Abu Dhabi? Check out my mangrove kayaking experience, or my visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. See all my trip posts here.

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