Saker falcon

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The saker falcon (Falco cherrug) belongs to the family Falconidae. These saker falcon species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, Asia, north Africa and Europe.

Taxonomy of Saker falcon

  • Scientific Name: Falco cherrug
  • Common Name: Saker falcon
  • French: Faucon sacre; German: Würgfalke; Spanish: Halcón sacre;
  • Other names: Altai Falcon; Falco altaicus (Menzbier, 1891); Hierofalco altaicus Menzbier, 1891;
  • Family: Falconidae › Falconiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Gray, 1834
Falco cherrug is closely related to F. rusticolus, F. biarmicus and F. jugger. The four recognized subspecies are: F. c. cherrug J. E. Gray, 1834, F. c. milvipes Jerdon, 1871, F. c. coatesi Dementiev, 1945 and F. c. hendersoni A. O. Hume, 1871.

Indian birds - Image of Saker falcon - Falco cherrug
Indian birds - Image of Saker falcon - Falco cherrug


The saker falcon is a medium sized bird of prey, measuring 45 to 60 cm in length and weighing 700 to 1,000 grams. The female saker falcon is much larger and weighs 1,000 to 1,300 grams. The wingspan is 100 to 130 cm. They have brown upper bellies and pale brown head and underparts. There is dark streaking on the breast. The crown is whitish to brown. Their call is a loud kyak-kyak or kiy-ee sound.


The saker falcon inhabits open grassy landscapes, desert edge, semi-desert, plains near waterbodies, steppes and arid mountain areas.

Feeding habits

The saker falcon species hunt terrestrial rodents by flying close to the ground in open terrain. They are also prey on birds and reptiles.


The breeding season is during April and May. They nest on cliff ledge and tall trees. They may use abandoned stick nests of other birds. The clutch may consist of three to five eggs.


The saker falcon subspecies F. c. cherrug is distributed in Europe, Asia, Southwest Asia, Middle East region and north Africa. The subspecies F. c. milvipes is distributed in Mongolia, China and north India and Nepal. The subspecies F. c. coatesi is distributed in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The subspecies F. c. hendersoni is distributed in Pamir mountains to Tibetan Plateau.

Movement Patterns

The saker falcons in temperate regions are migratory, moving southwards during the winter. They generally leave their breeding grounds in September and October and return between February and May. Birds in warmer ranges are mostly sedentary.

Status and conservation

The saker falcon population is undergoing a very rapid decline and these species of falcon are considered endangered. The global population is estimated to number 12,800 to 30,800 mature individual birds. Saker falcons are known to be very susceptible to avian influenza. Capture for the falconry trade, habitat degradation, agricultural intensification, pesticide and agrochemicals use are the main threats to the survival of these species of falcons.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these falcon species and has listed them as of "Endangered".

Biological classification of Falco cherrug
Species:F. cherrug
Binomial name:Falco cherrug
Distribution:Indian subcontinent, Asia and Europe;
Feeding habits:birds, reptiles and small mammals;
IUCN status listing:

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