Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi

For my last full day in Abu Dhabi my friend had booked me into a tour of the Falcon Hospital near the airport.

In fact, only a few weeks before I had heard a programme on the radio with an interview of the German director of this hospital, (you can find the German podcast of the interview here) not knowing that I would actually be visiting this fascinating place now.

This photo is one of many in the display room of the falcon
hospital that show all the numerous honors and prizes
which the director, Dr. Margit Müller, has received for her
outstanding work at the hospital.

I didn't know much about falcons before my visit, and I am far from being an expert on falcons now, but I must says it was a fascinating experience, and is well worth the trip.
It was a bit of an adventure to find the exit for the falcon hospital from the highway, but we managed alright. It was a rainy day in Abu Dhabi (yes, it sometimes rains in Abu Dhabi, and I was lucky to catch one of the rare days during my short stay!).

So here are a few things I learned about falcons. They have a passport to prevent smuggling. A passport has all the personal details of the falcon, including its ring number to prove that it was bred in captivity and is not a wild falcon (those are protected and must not be caught and tamed) - but no picture.

A picture would be superfluous, or the passport would have to be renewed every year, because the falcon's feather pattern changes every year with the moulding.

They need the passport because they travel with their owners to go hunting in various countries. For traveling and any kind of transport, as well as while they are waiting for treatment at the clinic, they wear eye shades, which keeps them totally placent and quiet. You might find one sitting next to you on the plane like this.

If you're traveling First Class, I suppose...

We were allowed to watch one falcon's treatment - shortening and sharpening of its claws, inspection of wings for broken feathers, and it was demonstrated how a broken feather can actually be fixed or even replaced.

In the clinic they are also treating other kinds of birds - here is an owl whose mother had been treated, freed after treatment and kept returning to the cage until she started a nest and bred four youngsters.

And you can check in your falcon for the off-season in a free-roam cage to have it under perfect supervision for moulding season. That way you know it will be in perfect shape when you pick it up again for hunting season after moulding is over.

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