Out past the Abu Dhabi Airport, somewhere around the camel farm and the saluki breader is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Falconry is the national sport of Abu Dhabi, the Saker Falcon is the National Bird and falcons are the only animal allowed to travel in the cabin on Etihad airways (truly, Manuel has had falcons next to him in business class) so it's only natural that the world reknowned falconry hospital should be here. The tour of the hospital is a little-known "must do" in Abu Dhabi. Every year the hospital expands so that it now does boarding both of falcons and other pets, there's a laboratory, ICU, surgery, small museum, coffee shop, conference center, catering hall, flying ring and it's still growing...
Here are some fun facts about the falcons...
A gyr falcon (typically white from Siberia although now they tend to be more brown do to interbreeding) goes for around 300,000 AED (over 82,000 $).
Sheikh Khalifa has over 200 falcons in his collection.
Falcons need visas to travel to different countries which they stamp in their passports.
Breeding can only be done in NATURALLY cold climates. So all breeding here is by artificial insemination.
Falcons in captivity need to have their claws and beaks trimmed as they can grow too long causing bumblefoot (infected cuts in the pads of their feet).
The birds falcons typically hunt are ghaboor which are themselves endangered.
The tour is simply amazing -- they greet you with dates and tea in a waiting room with astro-turf covered stands for the falcons and couches for the humans. Once you're in with the falcons there's a treatment room where you can watch them perform pedicures (clipping and filing the claws so they're the same shape as before, otherwise they'll find it difficult to get their balance). The birds are out during the procedures. An anesthesia mask covers their entire head. You can also hold them and help feed them. Then you can look in on the surgery and the ICU (there were no patients there when we were there). Afterwards we were served a lovely lunch. All in all a great visit.