One of the most popular photos on Reddit this week had nothing to do with cats or dogs (surprisingly). Instead, with more than 86,000 up votes, it was this picture of 80 falcons enjoying the comforts of coach on a Boeing 767.
While the image looks completely absurd, the reality is far stranger. As it turns out, falcons are commonly seen on commercial flights in the Middle East, a modern phenomenon with roots dating back centuries. Young men, especially in the United Arab Emirates, train and hunt with falcons as a rite of passage. The sport, called falconry, is so popular that individual birds can sometimes fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
As one commenter named lolalollipopp explained on Reddit, the sheer number of birds in this photo indicates that they are all likely on their way to participate in a hunting meet.
"I have bred and flown falcons from the United Kingdom to Qatar and the UAE. At any check-in desk in the Arab States, Falcons can be found sat on a perch next to the falconer," the commenter wrote. "I would assume that these Falcons are on their way to a hunting meet, as typically a member of a Royal Family would have the Falcons transported on seat backs and not on flat tables."
In addition to health certificates and other pertinent registration, traveling falcons are also required to have an accompanying passport. Each one, costing $130, details the breed, sex and country of origin for each bird. You can see more detail on the passport in the video below.
As for costs and related accessories, airlines are on top of those details as well. Qatar has an entire page dedicated to the costs of flying falcons in economy class, while Lufthansa offers a "falcon master," a kind of seat perch that promises "a safe and comfortable solution for both owner and falcon."
Joked one Reddit commenter: "Did you know that hawks can only take 1 dead animal on a plane? Because you are only allowed one piece of carrion."