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Fixing falcons – what the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital tour is like

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

Taking the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital tour

We headed to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital 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 – informative for sure, but the part I liked most was when we headed into the actual clinic area and saw live falcons waiting to be treated.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital Clinic
Check out all the falcon patients in the clinic!

It was pretty cute seeing all these hooded falcons quietly perching 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. If you notice, the floor is lined with plastic so they can easily clear the bird poop.

The falcon patients all have 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 as you approached – 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 anaesthetic 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

How the hospital treats falcons

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 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 moulted wing weathers (falcons moult every year so there are lots of spare feathers) 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 feathers – 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 taking some photos and they took some pix of us holding the birds – there is 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

The Falcon Hotel

We got to explore the rest of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital 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 and other rescues that don’t 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 to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and found it very educational, and highly 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.

Visiting tips for Abu Dhabi Falcon HOspital

  • Cost: It cost me 173 AED back then but current price is 178.50 AED including GST
  • Timings: There are two tours available – 10am and 2pm.
  • How to book: 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

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.