Saker Falcon

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Is the Saker Falcon right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: N/A

Scientific name: Falco cherrug

The basics:
The large, impressive Saker Falcon has recently been redlisted as an Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), as a result of studies suggesting that the population has been cut in half (or more) in just three generations – an unsustainable collapse. In Europe, its open habitat has been converted to agriculture, while in Asia and the Middle East, the birds have been over-harvested for falconry. Despite its traditional place in the sport, we cannot in good conscience recommend this species to anyone except an experienced expert working as part of a program to restore the species.

The Saker Falcon is a breeding bird of eastern Europe and Asia, and it can be found as a winter visitor in Africa. Its close relationship to Lanner and Peregrine Falcon is obvious at a glance, but instead of being specialized to take birds on the wing, this fast and maneuverable species often pursues running mammals such as ground squirrels.

The Saker Falcon may remind the casual viewer of the Peregrine, but it has a warmer brown or cinnamon back, rather than slate-gray. It can also be confused with the Lanner, although it has dark thighs, while the Lanner usually has light or barred light thighs. Females, as with other falcons, can be much larger than the males.

Male: 730 - 990 grams (26 - 35 oz.)
Female: 970 - 1,300 grams (34 - 46 oz.)

Average size:
47 - 55 centimeters (18.5 - 21.5 in.)

15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
As one of the most highly regarded falconry birds, the Saker Falcon has been a victim of its own success. The large young females are the most coveted, and apparently they have been preferentially removed from the wild. Rather than extol the widely known virtues of the Saker, it might be best to encourage people to support captive breeding projects and anti-smuggling efforts until the population is once again secure.

A good Saker Falcon pen, aviary, or mews will provide shade from direct sunlight in the summer, protection from extremes of winter weather, and good security to lock out thieves. A roof that completely covers the structure is stronger and offers more protection from high winds than a partial roof. Don't shortchange them on space, since their long wings mean they really need space to stretch out. Like most birds of prey, they will enjoy some clean, shallow water for bathing.

The Saker Falcon is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. In the wild, they would chase good-sized mammals, such as ground squirrels, and their diet should include a healthy variety of such items as rodents as well as pigeons. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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