The Altay falcon: Origin, morphology and distribution



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The systematic position of the Altay falcon (Falco altaicus lorenzi) is perhaps the most enigmatic question lingering in falcon taxonomy. First reported to science in 1811, it has been treated as a race of the gyrfalcon (F. rusticolus), as a race of the saker (F. cherrug), as two separate species (F. lorenzi and F. altaicus), and as one to three color morphs of either the saker or the gyrfalcon. Ironically, two or even more of these explanations may be correct. Of 53 specimens examined, at least two are misidentified gyrfalcons, a score I dismiss as typical sakers, but a sizeable group (N = 34) is retained as representing what I consider to be the true Altay falcon type. Three adult color morphs exist: red, brown and grey. The red-backed morph closely resembles some eastern sakers. The chocolate morph resembles the black gyrfalcon from Labrador. The grey morph resembles the grey morph of the gyrfalcon. Ecological, geographical and morphological information contribute to the conclusion that this core group represents a gyrfalcon-saker hybrid that is very likely being swamped into obscurity through back crosses with the saker. The breeding range reported herein (Altay-Sayan Mountains) is greatly contracted from that previously reported. The true identify of the Altay falcon will be resolved by molecular genetics.
Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title The Altay falcon: Origin, morphology and distribution
Year Published 1995
Language English
Publisher Middle East Falcon Research Group
Publisher location Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 222
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Other Government Series
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the Specialist Workshop, November 14-16, 1995
First page 143
Last page 168
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