Members of the genus falco are mostly medium-sized falcons, but vary from the large peregrine falcon to the small American kestrel. The wings are long and pointed and used almost continuously during flight. The bill is short, powerful, and with a distinct ‘tooth’ on each side. Most falcons of this group have a black teardrop-shaped ‘mustache’ mark on each side of the head. Falcons are fastflying birds of open country and are famous for attaining high speeds as they dive from high altitudes to knock birds out of the air.
Birds at any distance sometimes difficult to tell from Gyrfalcon and Lanner, and distinctive looser build and flight action learned only from experience. Gyrfalcon larger, with whole body broad and heavy (not just chest as in Saker), and broader wings and tail; lacks striking underwing pattern of most Saker. Lanner shares pale crown and similar flight silhouette but is less bulky, with narrower wings (adult also lacking dark bar across larger under wing-coverts) and darker face. In close view, lack of flank and thigh barring in Saker helpful, but some adult Lanner also unmarked. Differentiation of some immature birds not easy; close attention to head pattern and amount of wing and tail barring or spotting then essential. Importantly, Saker always shows much paler, apparently translucent bases to undersurfaces of flight-feathers. Flight fast and powerful but hunts at rather low level, like Gyrfalcon, flying down or stooping at bird prey. Action appears lazy, but when hunting, quickens although still less emphatic than Peregrine.
Listen to the sound of Saker Falcon
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
|wingspan min.:||110||cm||wingspan max.:||125||cm|
|size min.:||45||cm||size max.:||55||cm|
|incubation min.:||29||days||incubation max.:||31||days|
|fledging min.:||45||days||fledging max.:||31||days|
Video Saker Falcon
copyright: J. Gregory
Falco cherrug occurs in a wide range across the Palearctic region from eastern Europe to western China. The species has declined significantly during the 20th century, including, at global level by about 61% (48-70%) from 1990 to 2003, specially in Central Asia. The global population was estimated to be 8,500-12,000 pairs in 1990 compared to 3,600-4,400 pairs for 2003. Historical population data are sparse, but it is likely that Europe held some 5-10 thousand pairs in the second half of the 19th century. After 1945 it has declined markedly in its European distribution. Now, the European breeding population is very small (as few as 600-700 pairs), and declined substantially between 1970-1990. Although several central European populations were stable or increased during 1990-2000, the species continued to decline throughout eastern Europe, and underwent a large decline overall (>20% in two generations). Because of these changes, the historical range has contracted and is fragmented now. Occurs in a wide range across the Palearctic region from eastern Europe to western China. In Europe, five more or less isolated fragments of the range can be distinguished: (1) a fairly continuous population in Central Europe ranging from the Czech Republic through Eastern Austria, Slovakia and Hungary to Serbia and Western Romania (over 200 pairs); (2) in southern Ukraine, Moldova and Dobrogea in Romania (260-280 pairs) and (3) close to the Ural mountains in Russia (10-20 pairs, disappearing). Heavily depleted and fragmented populations are (4) in Bulgaria and Macedonia, as well as (5) in Turkey and the Caucasus where little information is available.
Kazakhstan (90% decline from median of 1990 estimates to median of 2003 estimates), Uzbekistan (90% decline), Russian Federation (69%), Kyrgyzstan (68%) and Mongolia (59%)6. Assuming a generation length of five years and that the decline of the Saker began (at least in some areas) in the 1970s and 1980s (consumption of Sakers in the Middle East was heavy by mid-1980s), the declines over 13 years equate to 66% over 15 years (based on median estimates), with a minimum-maximum of 53-75%.
In Russia and western Siberia, leaves northern breeding areas late September and October, returning March and early April. In south-central Europe, where winter climate less severe, may be absent for much shorter periods: departures from Rumania in November, returning February-March; in east Slovakia, may return late February or early March and still be present in December or January.
Adult birds are sedentary (Turkey), part-migratory (Central Europe) or fully migratory (parts of Russia), depending largely on the availability of food in winter. They are more or less sedentary in southern part of range, but may straggle away from the breeding areas in winter. Juvenile dispersal/migration is probably ubiquitous across global range. Birds leave breeding grounds in October and return in March-April. In the central Mediterranean some birds pass through Italy and winter in south. Also irregular visitor in Malta, occurs in Libya and Tunisia mainly in winter. Small numbers crosses the Bosporus in autumn and spring.
for the Saker Falcon