Falcons are the national bird and emblem of the United Arab Emirates and are cherished in Emirati culture. Falcons were a big part of the Emirati ancestors’ livelihoods and were important to their survival in the desert. This strong cultural connection is why witnessing a falcon show or getting up close to these majestic birds is a popular thing to do in Dubai and why we include ethical falcon shows on most of our Desert Safaris. In this article, we outline some of the topics related to the wellbeing of our falcons and answer all the frequently asked questions.
Our falcon experts
A falconer refers to a person skilled in the art of falconry.
Our falconers are experts in falconry in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Between them, the team of 16 professionally trained falconers have the combined experience of more than 100 years of working with birds of prey.
Most falconers have such a passion for the birds and sport that their lives start to revolve around falconry. Once a falconer starts the journey into the sport, the dedication and commitment required makes the passion take control of their lives. Our falconers are professionally trained in animal behaviour and to them, working with falcons in more than a job, it’s their passion.
How are the falcons trained?
It’s important for the falcons to maintain their fitness levels to maintain their health and longevity. The key with training falcons is to simulate their natural behaviour. During the falcon shows we exercise them every day as if they were hunting. In the falcons’ minds, they are hunting and don’t know they are doing a bird show.
Instead of hunting a bird which is what they would naturally do in the wild, they hunt the artificial lure that the falconer swings. This simulated hunt allows the falcons to fly around, gain a bit of height as they would in the wild, see the prey and swoop down to catch it. As soon as the falcon catches the lure, the falconer swaps the lure with food so that the falcon can finish off the successful simulated hunt with a meal just like they would in the wild.
This fast flight is similar to a sprint or HIIT workout and replicates the natural behaviour of the falcon and most apex predators in the wild. We build our educational falcon shows around this natural behaviour.
How to tell if a falcon is in good condition?
The appearance of a falcon in good condition can be judged by the quality of their feathers, their alertness and way that they are standing and the clarity of their eyes. Falcons all have their own character and personality and as mentioned before, our falconers who are animal behaviour experts can always recognise when there is something wrong with one of their birds.
Our falcons get monthly check-ups with veterinarian avian specialists at the Dubai Falcon hospital, which has better facilities than some human hospitals in other parts of the world. The check-ups include a routine test that they go through just to make sure the blood count is right and that their lungs are healthy.
The living conditions of our falcons are very high to ensure that they are kept in good health. We follow the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare to maintain their wellbeing:
- Access to food and water (our falcons are fed quail imported from France everyday)
- A suitable living environment
- Good health
- An opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours
- Protection from fear and distress (the hood)
Why do falcons wear a hood?
The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ comes from falconry. The hood or ‘burka’ in Arabic is used to keep falcons calm. Sight is their strongest sense and when covered, it is a way to make them feel safer. Birds don’t have an imagination so by covering their eyesight whatever is out there simply doesn’t exist to them. The hoods are specially designed for each individual falcon and fits their head perfectly to ensure that it is very comfortable. We use the hood to keep our falcons calm before and after the falcon show when they are in transit. For the rest of the day the hood is removed.
What is the tracking device for?
The tracking device is a small GPS which is attached to the falcons in order to track them in case they get lost. The tracking devices are not attached to their skin or feathers but to a small backpack made from ribbon with very low abrasive affect.
We feature falcon shows on most of our Desert Safaris. Have a look at the Hot Air Balloon falcon experience for something a little bit more out of the ordinary. Share the skies with falcons and witness the world’s only in-flight falcon show.