The Saker falcons originated in southeast Europe and Asia. Their preferred habitats are the open plains and forest steppes. They can be found on the steppes of Mongolia and of southern Siberia, and the Russian Altai mountains. In the winter they migrate south to Kazakhstan and the Middle East. The Saker falcons inhabit those areas of the world where falconry had its origin and they were probably the birds first utilized for falconry.
There are several subspecies of Saker falcons; Falco cherrug cherrug, Falco cherrug milvipes and Falco cherrug altaicus.
The Saker falcon has a large range of color, from dark brown to grey, to almost white.
Saker is a ferocious falcon. It is larger than the peregrine falcon,
and has a very wide wingspan for its size. The Saker will prey on a
wide range of animals, mainly rodents, or birds such as pigeons and
partridges. Quite often it will attack prey larger than itself. The
Saker falcon seem to prefer ground game, and unlike the Peregrine,
this falcon prefers to hunt from a perch in a Goshawk-like fashion.
The Saker falcon is pretty easy to train, but it is not the best falcon to fly in Denmark as it has migratory instincts and is easy to lose.
There are no accurate figures for the population of Saker falcons, but it is believed that there are only 1,000 pairs of birds left in Russia, and 130 pairs in the rest of Europe. The decline has been largely brought about by shooting, environmental poisoning and the taking of youngsters for falconry. If the allegation against the falconers is true, it is to be hoped that the authorities in the future will be able to stop falconers commiting this Wildlife Crime. In many European countries there is a demand that falconer’s birds are microchipped and blood samples are taken in preparation for a DNA profile.
Some scientists think the decline of the Steppe Saker (Falco cherrug cherrug) is caused by the regional extinction of their preferred prey, the Red-cheeked Sousliks (Citellus erythrogenys), which is a type of ground squirrel. Global temperature changes has brought about changes in the vegetation on which the sousliks survived. Because the climate changed, the plants which Sousliks ate died, which caused the Sousliks to die off in that region, which is causing the Steppe Saker falcon population to decline. There are only about 200 pairs of Steppe Saker falcons left and they may become extinct in the next 10 to 15 years.