Most Precious Creature

     'The falcon has always been regarded as a very uncommon and shy bird, and they are very rarely met with by amateur birdwatchers’ (Ali 1968). Man has always regarded the falcon as a symbol of force and courage. Falcons are fast-flying hunters, supremely equipped for attacking preys in the air. In Arabic language, it is called Saqr, which means ‘beating’. Falcons have long wings and tails, similar in shape to kites, but they have greater sense of power.
    History tells us of emirs, chieftains and nobles practising hawking from ancient times. Falconry is an important traditional sport of the Arabian Gulf. Theories of the origin of this sport and its subsequent development are highly debatable. ‘Hunting with falcons, keeping them in captivity, their healthcare and use of advanced methods in training them were widely discussed in the period of the Omayyads and the khalifs of the dynasty’ (Schlegel & Verster 1979).

       The falcon is the national bird of United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and several other countries, recognizing the importance of falconry in their tradition and culture. The Saker falcons and their prey houbara are held in high regard, reminiscent of the desert life that is now vanishing.  Falconry, like camel racing and horse riding, is a traditional quest in most countries of the Middle East. The primary purpose of falconry was hunting for fresh meat. Falconry, once an important means to supplement diet of inhabitants of the deserts of Middle East countries, is now enjoyed more as a traditional sport of hunting. The more popular hunting falcons such as Peregrine and Saker are conventionally trapped during their autumn migration. They are used for hunting during the season and then released to the wild.

       Falcons form a very well specialized and spectacular group of hunting birds and are exhaustively termed as ‘hunting dogs of the skies’. The genus Falco is found in almost all parts of the world. ‘They are adaptable to nearly every latitude and climatic zones except Antarctica’ (Dottlinger et al.1999). They are seen particularly in such places as tundra, desert, tropical forests and all regions, wherever prey is available. However, the Peregrine falcon is widely spread all over the world except Antarctica. Lesser Kestrels are limited to west Palearctic, the breeding species to middle latitudes and even boreal zones on northern fringe. They are also occurring in Asia upto an altitude of 1500m, and occasionally higher. Lowland species in Europe breed regularly, not beyond 500m (above Mean Sea Level), and usually much lower, preferring foothills to mountains. Africa and its islands form the centre of the distribution of kestrels. Although members of the genus are seen in a wide variety of habitats, the large falcons, such as the Prairie falcon Falco mexicanus and the Saker falcon Falco cherrug live in open terrain. The smaller falcons can live in enclosed countryside, but as an exception, New Zealand falcons Falco novaezeelandiae inhabit heavily wooded areas.

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