A great favourite with falconers, the saker falcon is a large, powerful bird of prey with an exceptionally broad wingspan for its size (4). Like other falcons, this bird is equipped with sharp, curved talons for grasping prey, while the strong, hooked beak is used to tear its victim’s flesh (2). Great variation in colour and pattern exist, ranging from a fairly uniform chocolate brown colour to a pale sandy colour with brown bars or streaks, to almost pure white individuals, which are particularly prized by Arab falconers (2) (5). Female saker falcons are markedly larger than males (2).
As the breeding season commences in spring, males begin to perform spectacular aerial displays as a form of courtship ritual to attract females, calling loudly as they soar over their territories. Saker falcons are generally two to three years old before they begin to breed, after which one brood of two to six eggs will be produced annually by the female. Chicks are able to fly after 45 to 50 days, but remain dependant on their parents for food for at least another 30 to 45 days, during which time they stay within the nesting territory (2) (7). The saker falcon can be both highly agile and extremely fast as it hunts close to the ground (6), capable of diving for prey at 200 miles per hour (4). Prey consists largely of mid-sized mammals such as ground squirrels, voles, gerbils, jerboas, stoats and hares (2) (4) (7). At other times, and particularly near water, ground-dwelling and aerial birds such as pheasants, oriental honey-buzzards, quail, ducks, owls, thrushes, larks and songbirds form a significant proportion of the diet (2) (6) (7). The saker falcon is a ferocious hunter and frequently attacks prey larger than itself (4).