Saker falcons are large, powerful birds of prey with an exceptionally broad wingspan. They have variable plumage ranging from chocolate brown color to a pale sandy with brown bars or streaks and can be almost pure white. Males and females are similar, except in size, as are young birds, although these tend to be darker and more heavily streaked.
Saker falcons breed from central Europe eastwards across Asia. They are mainly migratory except in the southernmost parts of their range, wintering in parts of Africa, the Arabian peninsula, northern Pakistan and western China. Saker falcons are raptors of open grasslands preferably with some trees or cliffs. In some areas of their range, they can also be found near water, in agricultural areas, and even in urban environments.
Saker falcons are active during the day and spend most of their time hunting. They often hunt by horizontal pursuit and usually close to the ground. They are very patient hunters soaring in the air or sitting on the perch for hours watching for prey; when the prey is spotted they suddenly dive for the kill. Saker falcons are not very social birds; breeding pairs prefer to nest solitary, however, in areas where food is plentiful, birds may nest closer to each other. Saker falcons communicate vocally and their call is a sharp 'kiy-ee' or a repeated 'kyak-kyak-kyak'.
Saker falcons are monogamous which means that one male mates with one female exclusively. They breed from April to May and during this time males perform spectacular courtship displays to attract females; they usually call loudly while soaring over their territories. Pairs usually nest on cliffs or in an old stick nest in a tree that was previously used by other birds such as storks, ravens or buzzards. Females lay 3 to 6 eggs and incubate them around 32-36 days. Chicks begin to fly 48 to 50 days after hatching but remain with their parents for another 30 to 45 days. Young females usually become reproductively mature at 2-3 years of age, while males are ready to breed when they are 2-5 years old.
The Saker falcon is endangered, due to a rapid population decline, particularly on the central Asian breeding grounds. Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Arab Emirates have been the main destination for thousands of falcons caught and sold illegally for hefty sums at the black market. These birds also suffer from habitat loss and destruction, predation by larger birds of prey, human persecution, electrocution, poaching, and accidental poisoning through pesticides.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Saker falcon population size is around 12,200-29,800 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.