1258. Falco cherrug.
The Saker or Cherrug Falcon.
Falco sacer, apud Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 273 (1788); Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 29; iii, p. 869; id. Ibis, 1871, p. 238; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 62; Delme Radcl. Ibis, 1871, p. 365; Hume, S. F. i, p. 152 ; id. Cat, no. 10; Anderson, P. Z. S. 1876, p. 778; Scully, Ibis, 1881, p. 416; Curney, Ibis, 1882, p. 444 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 12; nec Forster, Phil. Trans, lxii, p. 383 (1772). Falco cherrug, J. E. Cray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool. ii, pl, 25 (1833-34). Hierofalco saker, Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 417; id. Yark. Miss., Aves, p. 149, pls. xvi-xix ; Murray, Vert. Zool. Sind, p. 66.
Chary , Chargela , H.
Coloration. Adult. Crown and nape white (the crown sometimes pale rufous), with blackish shaft-stripes, which are broader on the nape ; lores and sides of head white, with scattered dark streaks ; no cheek-stripe from the eye, but sometimes a broken moustachial stripe from the gape; ear-coverts brown, streaked darker; upper parts brown throughout, the feathers with rufous or tawny margins, and frequently a few rufous spots forming imperfect bars on the scapulars and larger wing-coverts ; quills brown, paler beneath ; primaries broadly barred with white on the inner webs, the bars widening and generally coalescing towards the inner border; secondaries with smaller white markings, or with spots, or. uniformly coloured brown ; tail-feathers brown, with a whitish tip, generally with round or oval white spots on both webs, but occasionally the middle feathers are unspotted (as in F. jugger), and sometimes the spots become on the outer rectrices imperfect bands interrupted at the shaft; lower parts white, with large elongate brown spots on the breast and abdomen and larger spots on the flanks and thigh-coverts; with age the spots grow smaller, rounder, and more scattered, especially on the breast.
Young birds do not differ greatly from old, except that the brown spots on the lower plumage are much more developed, and cover the greater part of the breast and abdomen; the head, too, is sometimes brown, and a moustachial stripe is usually well marked ; the middle tail-feathers are often unspotted at first.
Bill pearly white, tipped black; cere, legs, and feet dull yellow in old birds, greyish green in the young; irides dark brown, or brownish yellow or yellow.
Length of a female about 22; tail 9; wing 15.5; tarsus 2.2; mid-toe without claw 2; bill from gape 1.45: length of a male 19.5; tail 8; wing 14.5.
Distribution. Prom Eastern and South-eastern Europe, through Central Asia to China. This Falcon visits the Punjab in the cold season, and is common west of the Indus and also in the Sirsa district, a few birds straying into Sind and the N. W. Provinces. The locality Nepal, in the British Museum Catalogue, is probably due to a mistake, as in the similar case of F. barbarus.
Habits, &c. This is distinctly a desert species, and, according to Jerdon, it feeds in the Punjab very much on Uromastix hardwickii, a lizard only found in dry and barren regions. Many Saker Falcons are captured and trained to strike hares and even gazelles, cranes, and Houbara bustard, herons, and kites (Milvus govinda). It may be recollected that in Prance and Great Britain the Kite (M. ictinus) was of old the grandest quarry for the best Falcons (Peregrines). The Saker is not known to breed in India. It usually nests on trees, and lays four eggs, slightly elongate, but of the usual Falcon type.