The saker falcon, or Falco cherrug, is a large bird of prey. Saker falcons show quite a variation in color and pattern. These birds range from a solid chocolate brown to a paler tan shade with dark brown streaks to gray to almost completely white. Males and females are similar in coloration. Like other birds in the falcon family, saker falcons have powerful hooked beaks and curved talons that are suited to hunting prey.
Although male and female saker falcons resemble each other in appearance, they do differ markedly in size, with the female being the larger of the two. Males average 18 inches (45 cm) in length, and females are about 22 inches (55 cm) long. Their wingspan is approximately 39-43 inches (100-110 cm) for full-grown males, and it is 47-51 inches (120-130 cm) in females. Females also significantly outweigh males, with weights averaging 2.1-2.9 pounds (970-1,300 g) and males weighing 1.6-2.2 pounds (730-990 g). With her greater size and ferocity in hunting, it is the female saker falcon that is the most valued by falconers.
Geographically, the saker falcon can be found over a wide area. The saker falcon breeds from eastern Europe to western China. When breeding season is finished, many of these birds will migrate south to winter in parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, southern China and India. The saker falcon does not migrate in large flocks and, in fact, not all of the individual birds within a geographic population will migrate. Adult birds, particularly, might opt to remain in the same area to defend their territory.
For habitat, the saker falcon prefers landscapes that are very open, such as plains. This type of bird needs open areas in order to be able to hunt. It prefers open grassland with a few trees, but it also can be found in other habitats, such as mountains, deserts and forests.
Saker falcons are carnivorous. Mostly, their prey consists of small to medium-size mammals such as squirrels, gerbils and hares. When located near water, this type of falcon will also prey on aerial and ground-dwelling birds such as quail, pigeons and owls.
Breeding season is in early to mid-spring, when eggs are laid. Saker falcons do not build nests of their own but use either the ground or old stick nests abandoned by other birds. The female lays one clutch a year of two to six eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs, and the chicks become completely independent in about 60-90 days.