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Dozens of falcons take flight (on a plane)

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PERSIAN GULF – About 80 falcons took flight Monday, but not in the usual sense. The birds were seen in a picture aboard a commercial plane.

Reddit user lensoo posted the photo on Jan. 30 with the comment “My captain friend sent me this photo. Saudi prince bought ticket (sic) for his 80 hawks.”

The birds are actually falcons, and apparently, seeing falcons in the cabin of a plane isn’t that unusual in the United Arab Emirates, FOX 31 reported.

Falconry is a popular sport in the Middle East and falconers “travel the Persian Gulf and beyond with their birds to engage in festivals, competitions, and displays,” Atlas Obscura explains.

“Many Gulf-based airlines allow falcons on planes,” wrote Ali Al Saloom, a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. “The birds must have passports and certificates of health.”

That’s right — falcons must have their own passports.

“The Falcon Passport, as it is called, was launched in the UAE to combat the illegal trade in falcons within the region,” according to Gulf News.

“The unusual documentation scheme is due to the fact that, in the U.A.E, falcons are highly prized and therefore attractive to smugglers,” Atlas Obscura reported in 2015.

The birds are fitted with a leg ring that has an ID number that corresponds to their passport, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

A flight for a falcon will cost you, however.

Qatar Airways lists prices ranging from $135 to $630 for a seat in Economy Class. That’s actually not a lot of scratch, compared to how much people spend on the birds themselves.

A top falcon can sell for up to $1 million, according Al Saloom.

The falcon is the national bird of UAE and “is a symbol of force and courage,” according to