Winged Nobility

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Falcons are among Qatar’s most pampered residents and even have their own hospital, according to the Associated Press.

The Souq Waqif clinic, located in the capital of Doha, is a state-of-the-art hospital that offers a variety of services exclusively to falcons. Equipped with radiology and operating rooms, the institution provides expert care to nearly 30,000 birds.

That care includes feather replacements when the raptors lose them during a hunt. The staff is meticulous in ensuring that each feather perfectly matches the wounded bird’s breed in length, pattern and color.

“If these damaged feathers remain, it can cause loss or reduction of the bird’s fitness,” said hospital director Ikdam Al Karkhi. “They must be treated.”

Falcon nail filing for birds destined to become the prized possessions of wealthy afficionados is also a serious business in the clinic: Many birds will need some special talon treatment after moving from the desert wilderness to opulent homes.

Al Karkhi said that the hospital was built “to support the hobby and heritage of raising falcons,” adding that “it’s a pastime that stretches its veins into multiple generations.”

The birds of prey are revered in the resource-rich Gulf region, where the art of falconry is still practiced among sheiks and other wealthy residents.

“Even the look that a falcon and its owner share, it’s different than any other look,” Al Karkhi said. Falconers “feel the loyalty of this bird – a fierce warrior in the wild and yet a pet in my hand.”

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