At the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a veterinarian carries a bird to be examined. (AP)

At the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a veterinarian carries a bird to be examined. (AP)

Veterinary specialists provide medical care to falcons. They trim talons and beaks, perform surgery, and replace damaged feathers. (AP)

Veterinary specialists provide medical care to falcons. They trim talons and beaks, perform surgery, and replace damaged feathers. (AP)

A sick falcon receives anesthesia on an examination table at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. (AP)

A sick falcon receives anesthesia on an examination table at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. (AP)

Falcon Hospital

Posted: May 1, 2020

Two birds perch majestically in the waiting room of Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital in the United Arab Emirates. They’re waiting for a routine check-up before their next hunting trip.

Eid al-Qobeissy is their owner. “This has been a hobby of mine since 2007,” he says. He gently strokes one of the prized birds. The falcons wear leather hoods. These keep them calm and quiet. 

The birds have come to the world’s largest falcon hospital. Veterinarians there treat 11,000 falcons each year. Does a falcon need a checkup? Routine talon trimming? Major surgery? The falcon vets have it covered. Veterinary students come to the hospital from more than 40 countries. They learn about avian (bird) medicine there.

“The very complicated procedures are either broken legs or broken wings, or when a falcon has a really messy accident that results in big injuries,” says the hospital’s director Margit Muller. “Very long surgeries . . . can take up to three or four hours. That is the longest we can keep a falcon under anesthesia.”

People in the United Arab Emirates and nearby countries have owned falcons for centuries. Their ancestors were Bedouin nomads. They used the raptors to hunt meat. The birds made it possible for Bedouins to survive harsh desert life.  

“Here falcons are not considered as birds,” says Ms. Muller. “They are considered as the children of the Bedouins.”

And they fly like it too. Falcons do a lot air travel . . . on the wing and in planes. Normally, only animals such as guide dogs are allowed in main airplane cabins. But falcons in the United Arab Emirates are allowed too . . . as long as they have their own passports.