Saker Falcon Falco cherrug
- Falco : Latin for Falcon based on Sickle shaped claws ( falcis- sickle)
- Cherrug : Based on Hindi name Charg for the female Saker Falcon
Vernacular Names: Hindi: (F) Charg, Laggar, (M) Chargela, Jaggar, Pun: Laggar, Guj: Baggad, (F) Juggad, Cherug, (M) Juggad, Cherugelo, Te: Lagadu, Mar: Saakar sasaana
Distribution in India: Breeds in Ladhak, winter visitor in North West India.
Description: Size of 45–57 cm; male wt. is 730–990 g, female wt. is 970–1300 g; wingspan of 97–126 cm. It is the largest falcon in India, powerful with variable plumage. The crown is whitish to brown, streaked dark. It is browner, especially on upperparts; large and more heavily built .The moustachial stripe is weak. Flanks and thighs are streaked and not completely brown, Outer tail feathers prominently barred. The tail extends beyond the closed wings when at rest. The orbital rings, cere, and feet are yellow. Both the sexes are similar. The juvenile is darker and more heavily streaked than adult. It has bluish-grey to grey orbital rings, cere, and feet. It is found in arid and semi-arid habitats including grassland, steppe with scattered trees, and even open woodland, often with abrupt rocky areas, cliffs and canyons.
Habitat: It is found in wider range of habitats outside breeding season, but also in open areas; sometimes along coast, over marshes or near lakes; hunting area can be some distance from nest or roost. It is found from plains and foothills to mountains and high plateaux, up to 4700 m.
Food habits: It eats small mammals like rodents, lagomorphs, susliks, gerbils, jerboas, hamsters, voles, lemmings and other rodents; young marmots and Pikas in mountainous areas, medium-sized and ground-dwelling birds like Sandgrouse, partridges, quails, pheasants, corvids, pigeons and larks. It also feeds on lizards .It stoops on birds in air, but most prey caught on ground. It watches for prey from vantage points, where it may perch for hours. It also performs low foraging flights, looking for prey on ground; occasionally it hovers. Breeding pairs sometimes hunt cooperatively.
Breeding habits: They breed in Apr–May in Europe, Mongolia and India. They build nests on cliff ledges and crags; also nests in tall trees, occupying abandoned nests of other raptors, corvids or other birds. They reuse same nest or changes nests from year to year. They lay a clutch of 3–5 eggs. They may lay replacement clutch after failure early in incubation. The incubation period is 30 days, done mainly by female. The male brings most of food, and female does not hunt until second half of nestling period. The fledging period is 45–50 days. The post-fledging dependency lasts for 31–52 days.