When you think of the exotic, your mind might point towards Joe Exotic and all those tigers. No? Maybe you think pythons, panthers, antelope, and bongos instead. In terms of exotic birds, there are Macaw parrots, Golden pheasants, and lorikeets.
Most people don’t necessarily pair “exotic” with falcons right off the bat. At least, that’s most of the United States. Overseas, the bird of prey managed to grow quite the large following. So big, in fact, that you won’t believe how much one gyrfalcon went for in a world-record-breaking auction in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The Most Expensive Gyrfalcon Ever Sold
The International Falcon Breeders Auction (IFBA) hosted the event at their headquarters in the city of Malham. This is just north of the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh for reference. In addition to hosting a largely international crowd with visitors from 14 different countries, IFBA also streamed the auction live through Saudi TV and social media.
After an intense auction ensued, the bids climbed to 1.75 million SAR or the equivalent of about half a million US dollars. The gavel struck and the financial transaction marked the most expensive falcon ever sold.
Just under a year old, the beautiful White Gyrfalcon came from the American Pacific Northwest Falcons farm. Think of this farm as the Gucci or Prada of the falconry world. It’s a reputable breeder with highly sought-after animals. Coming in at 16.5 inches long and weighing 34.5 ounces, the gyrfalcon is living proof of the farm’s meticulous breeding methods that parse out the best of the best.
The Saudi Press Agency shared photos from the event. Check it out below:
A Lesson in Falconry
Many consider falconry a hobby with a rich history, especially as it pertains to Saudi Arabia. Essentially, falconry involves using a highly skilled and trained raptor to hunt wild animals in their native environment and natural state. The practice toes the line between sport and showmanship due to historic laws in the area forbidding desert hunting. It also has a lot to do with the class system, with ties to royalty and wealth. In recent years, however, the practice has opened up to include more lay folk.
IFBA shared that there are over 20,000 falconers established in Saudi Arabia alone. The country takes the practice very seriously and is proud to do so. In fact, falconry got weaved in with the law back in 2017 when a royal decree passed creating an official association of falconers. This association helps falconry conservation efforts while also respecting the traditions that come with it. Actually, Saudi Arabia joins other nations for international conventions on the topic.
This is not the first world-record-breaking event involving falcons in the area, and it won’t be the last either. Back in December of 2019, the annual King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival made the Guinness Book of World Records after drawing in handlers and an estimated 2,350 falcons.
The Peregrine Fund lists the White Gyrfalcon, specifically, as the largest bird of the falcon species. The elusive bird of prey is also known by its Latin counterpart, Falco rusticolus. It draws in attention for its rarer all-white color pattern and killer instincts.