Falconry is defined as an activity involving ‘taking quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of trained birds of prey‘, in laymen terms that means the hunting of prey in its natural habitat with a trained bird of prey. [1] This usually involves the use of different types of hawks and falcons, with the Harris’s Hawk being the most popular species to hunt with. [2]

Falconry is an important activity in the Middle East, which is host to 50% of all falconers.[3] The activity is so intrinsic to the Islamic culture that the activity is made reference to in the Quran. [4] Due to its popularity, many governments have had to shape policies around the activity, and many businesses have developed to take advantage of it.

Lawful for you are [all] good foods and [game caught by] what you have trained of hunting animals which you train as Allah has taught you.

Quran 5:4

An example of this is the United Arab Emirates where you are required to have a passport for your Falcon. The passport lasts for three years and costs 500 AED, or roughly $180 AUD per falcon, and it is treated like any other passport, being stamped at any airport as if it was a person.[5]

The UAE is also home to a hospital just for Falcons. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH) was established in 1999 on the 3rd of October by the UAE Environment Agency and is a public institution. [6] Every year this hospital treats around 11,000 birds of prey from the UAE, the surrounding Gulf States and from all around the world. [6]

Falconry is so important to individuals in the Middle East that some airlines have allowed for falcons to be flown in the cabin. One of the most notable examples of this is Etihad Airlines, a company with strong business ties to the ruling families of the UAE. If you fly Economy with Etihad Airways you are entitled to one falcon per guest, at a charge of 3x typical baggage costs. Every additional falcon requires you to buy another seat on the plane. The same applies to Business and First Class, except that you’re allowed two falcons with each guest, and additional seat. [7] Other airlines that allow falcons onboard are Qatar Airways and Lufthansa. In fact, Lufthansa has developed a new technology called the ‘Falcon Master’, which is a special tool for transporting falcons in the cabin.


Despite falconry being as prevalent as it is in the Middle East, in western culture, it is mostly unheard of. These have been some curious tidbits on the topic to look into and research, but I hope this has been an interesting snapshot to hopefully peak your interest.


[1] International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, ‘International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey’, International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey [website] 2013, http://www.iaf.org/, accessed 20 June 2017

[2] Wikipedia, ‘Falconry – Wikipedia’, Wikipedia [website] 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry, accessed 20 June 2017

[3] Mental Floss, ‘Falcons Get Their Own Passports in the United Arab Emirate | Mental Floss’, Mental Floss [website] 2015, http://mentalfloss.com/article/67007/falcons-get-their-own-passports-united-arab-emirates accessed 20 June 2017

[4] International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey – History of Falconry 1′, International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey [website] 2013, http://www.iaf.org/HistoryFalconry.php, accessed 20 June 2017

[5] UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, ‘ Our Services | UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’, UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment [website] 2015, https://www.moccae.gov.ae/en/our-services/cites/cites/falcon-passport.aspx, accessed 20 June 2017

[6] Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, ‘Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital’ Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital [website] 2012, http://www.falconhospital.com/content.aspx?DomainId=4&MainMenuId=21&submenuId=24, accessed 20 June

[7] Business Insider, ‘Etihad Airways Had Very Strict Rules For How Many Falcons Passengers Can Bring On A Plane | Business Insider’, Business Insider [website] 2013, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/etihad-allows-falcons-in-cabin-2013-8, accessed 20 June 2017


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