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This report clarifies recent studies on the saker falcon in Mongolia. In the last five years, three museum studies appeared on the Altay falcon (is it a gyrfalcon, saker or separate species). These showed that all of the most distinct Central Asian summer specimens were from only two mountain ranges. However, there is a continuum between sakers and Altay falcons and the two should be considered synonymous. Of field studies focused on the saker in Mongolia, the first was conducted by Baumgart in the 1970s. The next (my own) began in 1994 with a Mongolia-wide study of the nesting ecology of the species. From that study, we now have over 150 breeding territories with over 200 eyries described. Resulting publications dealt with reproductive performance of the falcons and unusual breeding situations. Not only were many nests in odd situations, many were also composed mainly of manmade materials. We found that birds sometimes became entangled in twine and cloth in such nests and either died or would have died without our intervention. Our work also led to observations of novel social behavior including the first documentation of siblicide for any falcon and the description of a new falcon display, splayed-toes-flight. Aware that saker populations in Kazakhstan and elsewhere were plummeting due to over harvest for falconry and seeing a growing harvest in Mongolia, in 1997, we began efforts to build artificial eyries for the falcons. To date, over 150 artificial eyries have been created. In 1998, there was a great expansion of saker field work after the National Avian Research Center (NARC) of the United Arab Emirates became directly involved in hiring Mongol students and scientists. Those efforts resulted in an immediate estimate of the breeding population. Continuing work promises to provide good information on home range, food habits, productivity and other topics.
Additional Publication Details
Recent history of Saker Falcon studies in Mongolia