The Saker Falcon a rare species across Eurasia

The Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) is a fast falcon and distributes in three subspecies in Eurasia and the northern part of Africa. In Eastern and Central Europe the Saker Falcon is among the rare breeding species. Falconers in Europe fly Saker falcons and are also busy breeding these birds to protect the species. In falconry falcons alre also called longwings.

The German breeding population is more than marginal. But the Saker falcon is breeding in the southern German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and more to the north in Schleswig-Holstein. Sightings outside these areas are mainly considered to be rare guests.

saker falcon falco cherrug eurasia eurasia
Falcons of Eurasia – the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) – head shot of an adult bird

Subspecies of the Saker Falcon

Across the entire distribution area we can find three subspecies of this falcon:

  • Falco rusticolus cherrug J.E. Gray – distributed from southeast Europe to western Asia
  • Falco r. milvipes – distributed across the central Asian mountain ranges
  • Falco rusticolus altaicus – western parts of the central Asian high mountains and sometimes also called Altai falcon, though this is unfounded.

Characteristics of the Saker Falcon


Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco
Species: Saker Falcon

Scientific Name: Falco cherrug

Names and Synonyms of the Saker Falcon

German: Saker Falcon
French: Faucon sacre
Dutch: Sakervalk
Spanish: Halcón Sacre
Italian: Sacro
Finnish: Aavikkohaukka
Danish: Slagfalk
Swedish: Tatarfalk
Polish: Raróg
Russian: Baloban Балобан
Kazakh: Ақсұңқар, Ителгі
Mongol: Идлэг шонхор
Nepali: तोप बाज
Bengali: সাকের শাহিন
Persian: بالابان , بالابان (چرخ)
Hebrew: בז צידים, בז ציידים
Arabic: الصقر الحر, الصقر الحر الصقر الحر, صقر الغزال
Swahili: Kozi Madoa
Chinese: 猎 隼, 猎隼, 獵隼
Chinese (traditional): 獵隼

saker falcon
Saker Falcon

Distribution of the Saker Falcon

Palearctic, during winter Afrotropical and partly Indomlayan. Breeds in in central and eastern Europe, eastwards across central Asia; countries: north Germany, northeast Austria, Hungary, northeast Croatia, northern part of the Balkan, eastwards to Romania, Bulgariy, Moldova, Ukraine, further east to Urals and southern Russia, further on to Siberia and to Mongolia; Turkey, Iraq, north and west Iran, northernmost Afghanistan, Kirghizia, northern China.

Movements – Wintering and Habitat of the Saker Falcon

Movements: Juveniles are entirely migratory. In Central Europe adults are mostly resident, though elsewhere migratory and nomadic. Eastern populations and across central Asia leave breading areas between September to October to winter in Middle East, northeast Africa and southwards to Kenya and Tanzania.

Wintering During winter moving to Afrotropical and Indomalayan areas.

Habitat: open and dry country with cliffs and scattered trees, favours forest-steppe, steppe, subdesert, plains, grassland.

Behaviour of the Saker Falcon

Diurnal. In flight only slow beats of wings. Very good at gliding, using thermals to soar high. Hunting flight very low over ground, treetops or from a hide. Slow search flight, can also switch into fast dive immediately when in search flight at higher altitudes.

saker falcon head
Saker Falcon head shot

Field Characteristics of the Saker Falcon

Can be confused with Lanner falcon. The Saker is a medium-large to large falcon, powerful in flight. It is a little smaller than the larger Gyrfalcon but much lighter in weight. Brown above, pale head. Head is relatively small. Moustachial narrow stripe. Whitish supercilia and streaked below. Broad chest but slender body. Long wings and tail. Typically perches in upright position. Tail projectoin.

Bill: blue-grey with black tip
Cere: adult = yellow; juvenile = yellowish
Legs and toes: adult = yellow; juvenile = blue-grey
Iris: dark brown

Measurements and Voice

♂ ca. 47 cm
♀ ca. 55 cm
Tail: 19-22 cm
♂: ca. 110 cm
♀: ca. 126 cm
♂ 700-900 g
♀ 970-1300 g

 Voice: Mostly silent except when breeding. Voice sounds gruffer as with peregrine falcon, loud “kyak-kyak-kyak-kyak”.


Maturity: Mature in the second year.

Mating Season: Monogamous breeding pair, though because of ist loyalty to the breeding gound, relationships can last for several years.

Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

Breeding: In the west between mid March and to late June/JulyZwischen Mitte März und Anfang April, in the east between April to August

Nest: Does not build a nest, uses nests of other raptors, crows, herons and even stork nests. Nest usually sits in tree, also on cliff ledges or on rock crags. At times, there are 2-3 nest sites per breeding ground.

Clutch, Egg & Measurements

Clutch: (rarely 2-) 3-5 (maxi. -6) eggs

Eggs: broad oval eggs, yellowish shell; mostly covered with brown to red-brown stains. Breitovale Eier mit gelblicher Schale, die überwiegend braun bis rotbraun gefleckt sind.

Egg Measurements:
Length: 50.1-58.7 mm
Width: 38.8-44.9 mm; Ø: 53.7×41.1 mm (n=61)
Shell weight: 3.81-5.51 g; Ø: 4.75 g (n=160)
Egg weight: 44.96-54.15 g

egg of saker falcon
Egg of the Saker Falcon – source: Von Didier Descouens – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Laying, Incubation, Fledging to Dependency

Recurrent clutch: possibly but rare; mostly when clutch is lost the Sakers give up breeding.

Begin of Incubating: after third egg.
Incubation: 36-38 days per egg; it is mostly the ♀ incubating, while being fed by the ♂, which also keeps watch over clutch and ♀. The only time when the ♀ takes over incubating is when the ♀ is feeding.

Hatching: All chicken hatch within a couple of days.

Fledging: The chicken are being huddled by ♀ while ♂ brings food to the nest. Only after the end of the third week, both parents share the task of hunting and feeding the chicken. Fledging after 48-50 days

Dependency: After fledging the immatures will be cared for by parent for another 54-6 weeks.

saker falcon
Saker Falcon head shot


Food: During breeding mostly small mammals (rodents, logomorphs); birds, reptiles, few insects, only rarely amphibians.

Longevity: In captivity Saker can reach 23 years of age.

Mortality: According to studies in Kazakstan, the yearly survical rate is about 82%.

Threats: Especially in the eastern range, the largest threat to the Saker is that eggs and chicken are freely taken from nests by people. Another threat are collisions with power lines.

saker falcon backside
Saker Falcon


Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Baumgart, Wolfgang, Der Sakerfalke, Die Neue Brehmbücherei, A. Ziemsen Verlag Wittenberg Lutherstadt, 2. Auflage 1980

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König/Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck’sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Ferguson-Lees, James and Christie, David A., Raptors of the World, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston New York, 2001
Ferguson-Lees, James, Christie, David, Raptors of the World, A Field Guide, Christopher Helm London, 2005, reprinted 2019

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 4, Falconiformes, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 2. durchgesehene Auflage 1989

Mebs, Theodor (†), Schmidt, Daniel, Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens, Franck-Kosmos Verlag Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2014

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011
Svenson, Lars, et al, Collins Bird Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins, 2019, 2nd edition

German Falconry Assiciation – Deutscher Falkenorden link

Raptor Bird Station Hellenthal link

saker falcon on block
Saker Falcon sitting on block

Image Credits

Featured Image of Saker Falcon: by ©Raymond Loyal

Post Images of the Saker Falcon: by ©Raymond Loyal

Egg of the Saker Falcon – source: Von Didier Descouens – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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