A young falcon in Saudi Arabia fetched more than $170,000, the most expensive sale of that type of bird and the costliest purchase so far, at an annual 45-day auction of the hunting birds cherished in Gulf countries.
The price is nearly eight times higher than falconers would usually expect to pay for a hunting bird.
The bird was sold on Tuesday for 650,000 Saudi riyals ($173,000) by virtue of its unique characteristics and scarcity, the auction's organisers, the Saudi Falcon Club, said.
The club said it was the most expensive sale ever globally for its type – a young Shaheen breed, a type of peregrine falcon.
Falconry is an important part of the cultural desert heritage of Arabs of Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries going back thousands of years.
A UAE based falconer told The National that a typical hunting bird would retail for about $23,000 but a prize-winning falcon at competitions can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars and are priced accordingly.
Competitions include hunting and speed races as well as beauty contests.
Falcons, whose flight speeds can exceed 300 kilometres per hour, are recognised internationally as endangered. Countries have varying regulations governing their sale, capture, breeding and hunting activities.
The falcon, weighing 1.1 kilograms, was captured from the wild in Hafer Al Batin, in north-east Saudi Arabia, the club said.
The auction from October 3 to November 15 is organised by the Saudi Falcon Club, founded in 2017 and supported by the government as a way to preserve and nurture the heritage activity.
Falcon owners in the Gulf, seeking hunting opportunities, commonly travel with their birds inside plane cabins to countries such as Pakistan, Morocco and the Central Asian region during colder months.