Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)


Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug)


French: Faucon sacre German: Würgfalke Spanish: Halcón sacre
Other common names: Altai Falcon (“altaicus”)

Falco cherrug

J. E. Gray

, 1834,



Closest to F. rusticolus; genetic data indicate that these two, along with F. biarmicus and F. jugger, form a group of closely related species#R. Internal taxonomy very complicated and uncertain, especially with regard to populations of C Asia. Status of form altaicus controversial: has been considered a separate species, or a race of present species or of F. rusticolus, but often reckoned to be a morph of present species, or a hybrid between it and F. rusticolus now being swamped by back-crosses with F. c. milvipes; nevertheless, breeds significantly earlier than nearby populations of present species; currently included within milvipes; molecular analyses required. Described race progressus (EC Asia) apparently rather distinctive and may be valid, as perhaps may cyanopus (C & E Europe); form korelovi, very recently described from deserts E of Caspian Sea (replacing same authors’ aralocaspius, which is preoccupied), is here synonymized with coatesi, but further investigation desirable. Form saceroides, in the past sometimes considered a valid race, now thought to be intergrade (in SC Siberia) between W & E populations, but possibly an aberrant morph (identical individuals recorded also in W of species’ range). Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • F. c. cherrug J. E. Gray, 1834 – C Europe E through Ukraine and SW Russia to SC Siberia, N Kazakhstan, Asia Minor and Iran; winters from S Europe and N Africa E to SW Asia.
  • F. c. milvipes Jerdon, 1871 – C Tien Shan and Altai Mts to S Transbaikalia, Mongolia and N & C China, and recently in Jammu and Kashmir, N India#R; winters from Iran E to Nepal, N India and S & C China (including Tibet).
  • F. c. coatesi Dementiev, 1945 – plains of Transcaspia to E Uzbekistan and S Kazakhstan.
  • F. c. hendersoni A. O. Hume, 1871 – Pamir Mts E to Tibetan Plateau.
  • Descriptive notes

    45–57 cm; male 730–990 g, female 970–1300 g; wingspan 97–126 cm. Largish, powerful falcon with variable plumage; crown whitish to brown,... read more


    Generally silent, except around the nest. Main call is a loud hoarse-sounding “kyak-kyak-kyak...”... read more


    Favours arid and semi-arid habitats including grassland, steppe with scattered trees, and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly small mammals, particularly rodents and lagomorphs. In many areas susliks (Spermophilus) predominate; also gerbils, jerboas... read more


    Laying in Apr–May. Nests on cliff ledges and crags; also nests in tall trees, particularly in W of range, occupying abandoned nests... read more


    Mainly migratory or partially migratory; sedentary or dispersive in S of breeding range. Only... read more

    Status and conservation

    ENDANGERED. CITES II. Despite apparent rarity, world population calculated to number c. 6400–15,400 breeding pairs based on summation of national counts. Numbers and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Boesman, P., Sharpe, C.J. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).