Jurchen Falconer

Jurchen Falconer

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In Falcon-a bird of prey, the largest of the Falcon species. Abbreviation Gyr is also used. Breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra and on the Islands of Northern North America, Europe and Asia. It is mainly resident there also, but some Gyrfalcons disperse more widely after the breeding season, or winter. Individual vagrancy can take birds for long distances. Its plumage varies with location, with birds, color from white to dark brown. These color variations are called morphs. Like other falcons, it exhibits sexual dimorphism, with the female much larger than male. For centuries, Merlin was prized as a hunting bird. A typical victim includes partridge and waterfowl, which may take in flight, it also takes fish and mammals.

1. Etymology. (Этимология)
Merlin was formally described by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his system in kind under its current binomial name Falco rusticolus. The genus name is a late Latin term for Falcon, Falco, from the falx, falcis, a sickle, reminiscent of the claws of a bird. The name of the species comes from the Latin rusticolus, country dweller, from Rus, ruris, "country" and colere, "to inhabit". Birds common name comes from the French gerfaucon, in medieval Latin, it gyrofalco. The first part of the word may come from old high German gir BF. modern German Geier for "vultures", referring to its size compared to other falcons, or the Latin gȳrus "circle" or "curved path", in turn from the Greek γῦρος, gûros, which means "circle" – from the rock circle, as he searches for prey, unlike the hunting of other falcons in its range. The male Gyrfalcon is called a gyrkin in falconry.

2. Description. (Описание)
Gyrfalcon is a very large Falcon, being about the same size as the largest buteos Buzzards, but probably a little heavier. Men from 48 to 61 cm 19 to 24 in, weight 805 g to 1.350 1.775 to 2.976 kg, with an average weight reported as or 1.130 1.170 g or 2.49 2.58 kg and have a wingspan from 110 to 130 cm from 43 to 51 V. the Females are bulkier and larger at 51 to 65 cm, from 20 to 26 in long, 124 to 160 cm, 49 to 63 in wingspan, and up to 1.180 2.100 g 2.60 to 4.63 pounds The average weight of 1.585 or 1.752 g 3.494 or 3.862 pounds. The oversized woman from Eastern Siberia was discovered reduced 2.600 g 5.7 lb. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 34.5 to 41 cm 13.6 to 16.1 in, tail 19.5 to 29 cm 7.7 to 11.4, in the proportion of from 2 to 2.8 cm 0.79 to 1.10, Tarsus 4.9 to 7.5 cm 1.9 to 3.0 V. the Gyrfalcon is larger, broader-winged and tailed than the Peregrine Falcon, which is known to compete with and sometimes hunt. It differs from the Buzzard in General structure, having pointed wings.
Gyrfalcon is a very polymorphic species, so its plumage varies greatly. The archetypal morphs are called "white", "silver", "brown" and "black," although they can be colored in a spectrum from white to very dark. The brown form of the Gyrfalcon peregrine Falcon is different from the cream streaking on the nape and crown and by the absence of a clearly defined Malar stripe and cap. The black Morph has a black-and-white underside, not finely barred as in the Peregrine. Gyrfalcons are white only the white falcons. Silver Gyrfalcons resemble a light grey Lanner Falcon of larger size. Species shows no sexual differences in color, juveniles are darker than adults and Bureya.
The black color seems to be sex-linked and occur mainly in women, it proved difficult for breeders to get males darker than the dark side of slate grey. A color variety that arose in the breeding is "black chick".

3. Systematics and evolution. (Систематика и эволюция)
Gyrfalcon is a member of the hierofalcon complex. In this group, sufficient evidence of hybridization and incomplete sorting line, which blends analysis of data on DNA sequence to a great extent. Radiation of the entire living diversity of hierofalcons was on stage Aesculo at the beginning of the late Pleistocene. It is a line that expanded into the Holarctic and adapted to local conditions, in contrast to at least the Northern populations of northeastern Africa where the radiation probably originated, that turned into a Falcon. Gyrfalcons hybridize not infrequently with Sakers in the Altai mountains and this gene flow seems to be the origin of the Altai Gyrfalcon.
Some correlation exists between locality and colour morph. Greenland Gyrfalcons are bright, with white plumage flecked with grey on back and wings being most common. Other subpopulations have varying amounts of dark morphs: the Icelandic birds tend towards pale, whereas the Eurasian populations are much darker and tend to include the white birds. Natural separation into regional subspecies is stopping the habit of Gyrfalcons to fly long distances, while the exchange of alleles between subpopulations, thus, the distribution of the allele for color polymorphism abrupt changes in temperature and in the dark birds of unknown origin, theoretically any allele combination might be present. For example, the mating of a pair of Gyrfalcons prisoners proved to have produced a brood of four young: one white, one grey, one brown and one black. Molecular work suggests plumage color is associated with the melanocortin 1 receptor MC1R gene, where a nonsynonymous point substitutions were perfectly associated with the white / melanic polymorphism.
In General, geographical variability following the Bergmanns rule size and the demands of Crypsis for plumage coloration. Several subspecies have been named according to perceived differences between populations, but none of them are consistent and thus no living subspecies are accepted now. The population of Iceland is described as R. F. islandus is perhaps the most distinct. The predominantly white Arctic forms parapatric and smoothly into the subarctic populations. In Iceland the species are considered to be less gene flow with their neighbors, they show less change in plumage color. Comprehensive phylogeographic studies to determine the correct position of the Icelandic population, which are yet to be fulfilled.
Genetic population studies, however, revealed the Icelandic population as genetically unique relative to other sample populations in Eastern and Western Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Norway. In addition, in Greenland, the different levels of gene flow between Western and Eastern sampling points were identified, with apparent asymmetric dispersal in Western Greenland from North to South. This bias dispersal is consistent with the distribution of plumage colour variants with white Gyrfalcons in much higher percentage in Northern Greenland. Although further work is needed to determine the ecological factors contributing to these distributions relative to plumage differences, a study using demographic data suggested that plumage color distribution in Greenland may be influenced by nesting chronology with white individuals and pairs laying eggs early in the breeding season and producing more offspring.

3.1. Systematics and evolution. Merlin woods. (Мерлин лесу)
A paleosubspecies, using Falco rusticolus swarthi, existed during the late Pleistocene of 125.000 to 13.000 years ago. Fossils found in little box elder cave, converse County, Wyoming, dark Canyon cave, eddy County, new Mexico, and Mckittrick, California were initially described as Falco swarthi "clearing Falcon" or more properly "the grass Merlin" due to their particular size. Meanwhile, they were largely inseparable from those living Gyrfalcons, except for being somewhat larger.
Merlin woods, he was at the top end real Gyrfalcons range of sizes, with more strong females even surpassing it. He seems to have had some adaptations to the temperate semiarid climate that prevails in its range during the last glacial period. Ecologically more similar to the current Siberian populations, which typically consist of smaller birds or Falcon Prairie, steppe, temperate populations must have preyed on landbirds and mammals rather than the sea and landbirds, which are a big part of the American Gyrfalcons diet today.

4. Ecology. (Экология)
Gyrfalcon was originally thought to be a bird of tundra and mountains only, However, in June 2011, it was revealed to spend considerable periods in winter on sea ice far from Land. It only feeds on birds and mammals, the latter of which is more regular than many other species of Falco. Like other hierofalcons, it usually hunts in a horizontal pursuit, and not with the Peregrines speedy fall from a height. Most predators kill on the ground, whether they are captured there, or if the victim is a flying bird, and threw it on the ground. Diet to some extent opportunistic, but a large part of the breed and of hunting coincides with ptarmigan and seabird colonies. Avian prey can range in size from cachetic to geese and can include Gulls, corvids, smaller passerines, waders, and other raptors up to the size of Buteos. Predatory mammals can range in size from shrews to marmots sometimes three times, the weight of the attack of a Falcon, and often includes lemmings, voles, ground squirrels, hares, and rarely bats. They are rarely observed eating carrion.

4.1. Ecology. The threat of climate change. (Угроза изменения климата)
In the early 2000s, it was noted that climate change has become a temper Arctic summer, Peregrine falcons have been expanding their range North, and competing with Merlin. Although it is specially adapted for high-latitude Arctic life, and larger than the peregrine Falcon, the Gyrfalcon is less aggressive and more conflicts trying to avoid, and therefore not able to compete with the Peregrine Falcon, which regularly attack and kill gyrs. There is a fear that gyrs die out in its old boundaries over the next ten to fifteen years.

5. Breeding. (Селекция)
Gyrfalcon almost invariably nests on cliffs. Breeding pairs do not build their own nests, and often use a bare cliff ledge or the abandoned nests of other birds, particularly Golden Eagles and ravens. Grip can vary from 1 to 5 eggs, but usually from 2 to 4. The average size egg is 58.46 mm × 45 mm 2.302 × 1.772 in, the average weight is 62 g 2.2 oz. The incubation period averages 35 days, with Chicks to a weight of about 52 g 1.8 oz. Chicks are thinking, as a rule, from 10 to 15 days and leave the nest at 7-8 weeks. At 3-4 months of age, the immature Gyrfalcons become independent of their parents, though they may communicate with their siblings through the following winter.
The only natural predators of Gyrfalcons are Golden eagles and even they rarely engage with these formidable falcons. Gyrfalcons have been recorded as an aggressive chase animals that come near their nests, although the ravens are the only predators known to successfully pick off eggs and Chicks of the Falcon. Even brown bears have been reportedly dive-bombed. People, whether by accident car accidents or poisoning of carrion to kill mammalian scavengers, or intentionally through hunting, are the leading cause of death for Gyrfalcons. Gyrfalcons that survive into adulthood can live up to 20 years.
As F. rusticolus has such a wide range, it is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN. It is not much affected by habitat destruction, and pollution, for example pesticides, depressed its numbers in the mid-20th century, and until 1994 was considered a "near threatened". Improving environmental standards in developed countries have allowed the birds to make a comeback.

6. Interaction with people. (Взаимодействие с людьми)
Gyrfalcon has long associated with humans, mainly for hunting and the art of falconry. This is the official bird of Canadas Northwest territories. White Falcon on top of the Icelandic coat of arms of the various republics of the Gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcon, white phase is the official mascot of the U.S. air force Academy.
In Medieval times, the Gyrfalcon was considered a Royal bird. The geographer and historian Ibn said al-Maghribi d. 1286 described certain Northern Atlantic Islands West of Ireland where these falcons would be brought to, and how the Egyptian Sultan paid 1.000 dinars for each Gyrfalcon. Due to its rarity and the difficulties associated with obtaining it, in European falconry the Gyrfalcon was reserved for kings and nobles, very rarely was a man of lower rank seen with a Gyrfalcon on his fist.
In the 12th century ad China, Swan-hunting with Gyrfalcons 海东青 hǎidōngqīng in Chinese, derived from the Jurchen tribes became fashionable among the Khitan nobility. When demand for Gyrfalcons exceeded supply, the Liao Emperor imposed a tax payment In kind of Gyrfalcons on the Jurchen, within the last Liao Emperor, tax collectors have the right to use force to ensure sufficient Krechetov. It was one of the reasons Jurchen rebellion, whose leader Aguda annihilated the Liao dynasty in 1125, and founded the Jin dynasty in his favor.
Most historians agree that the coat of arms of Ukraine, the medieval symbol was not intended to portray the Trident, but most likely a stylized Falcon. Image of a flying Falcon with a cross above its head have been found in Old Ladoga, the first seat of Kievan dynasty of Rurik, of Scandinavian origin. For centuries, falconry was a Royal sport in Europe. Also known as Norwegian Falcon, it was considered a Royal bird and is mentioned UK: Merlin one of the earliest epics of Ruthenia, the 12th century poem the tale of Igor Igor. Merlin connected with other falcons. Falcons are known to be very susceptible to avian flu. Therefore, an experiment was done with hybrid Gyr-Saker falcons, which found that five of falcons vaccinated with a commercial influenza vaccine Н5N2 survived infection with a highly pathogenic strain of the H5N1 virus, while five unvaccinated falcons died. Thus, both wild and captive Gyrfalcons can be protected from bird flu by vaccination.

  • The Gyrfalcon Islands are an uninhabited island group in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. The over 200 small islands form an archipelago in
  • The gyrfalcon is the largest of the falcon species.. Gyrfalcon may also refer to: Gyrfalcon Islands, an uninhabited island group in the Qikiqtaaluk Region
  • Gyrfalcon Lake is located in Glacier National Park, in the U. S. state of Montana. Gyrfalcon Lake is east of Two Ocean Glacier. List of lakes in Flathead
  • Mediterranean region. In captivity, lanners and sakers can interbreed, and gyrfalcon - saker hybrids are also available see bird flu experiment described in
  • appears that Altai falcons are either natural hybrids between sakers and gyrfalcons Falco rusticolus or rather the descendants of such rare hybrids backcrossing
  • cattle a Zebu breed of cattle Billion years Gyr Guarayu language Gyrfalcon Phoenix Goodyear Airport, in Arizona, United States Radu Gyr 1905 1975
  • migration route for wildlife including moose, and a breeding area for gyrfalcon peregrine falcon, and rough - legged hawks. The ecoregion is also home
  • associated with both the gyrfalcon and the lammergeier although neither is synonymous with geier For example, gyrfalcon is thought to come from French
  • gyrfalcon on a field of blue. By royal decree of the king of Denmark in 1903, the coat of arms of Iceland was changed to a white Icelandic gyrfalcon
  • close - fitting jacket. Jerkin may also refer to: Falconer s term for a male gyrfalcon Jerkinhead roof, a roof with a squared - off gable Jerkin a hip hop dance
  • smaller, typically prey on young hares. Gyrfalcon carry hares to their nests, cutting them in half first gyrfalcons use hare bones and feet in the structure
  • The Kiev class, Soviet designation Project 1143 Krechyet gyrfalcon was the first class of fixed - wing aircraft carriers heavy aircraft cruiser in Soviet
  • Falco tinnunculus C LC Guadalupe caracara, Caracara lutosa E EX Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus LC Laughing falcon, Herpetotheres cachinnans LC Merlin
  • some other rarer visitors such as the Snowy Owl, Black Billed Cuckoo, Gyrfalcon and the Hoopoe. About Balranald The RSPB. Retrieved 2016 - 06 - 20. Hope
  • Svenska Aero Jaktfalken Gyrfalcon was a Swedish biplane fighter aircraft, constructed in the late 1920s. The aircraft was first manufactured by Svenska
  • Akdoğan is a Turkish word meaning gyrfalcon and may refer to: Necla Akdoğan born 1971 Turkish women s footballer, referee and manager Onur Akdoğan
  • Aksungur is a Turkish word for gyrfalcon It may refer to: Aq Sunqur al - Hajib, Seljuk governor of Aleppo Aksungur, Merzifon, a village in Merzifon district
  • common bird of prey, but hikers may also spot golden eagle, kestrels, and gyrfalcon Wolverines and lynx live in the park and surrounding mountains. The Sami
  • black guillemot, common eider, common loon, great black - backed gull, gyrfalcon herring gull, Pacific loon, purple sandpiper, red - necked phalarope, red - throated
  • species of predatory birds including white tailed eagle, golden eagle, gyrfalcon and peregrine falcon. A number of other rare and endangered birds of
  • home to brown bears, wolverines, and lynx, as well as the snowy owl, gyrfalcon and reindeer with Sami owners There are also wetlands and alpine vegetation
  • bears and muskox, while birds include golden eagle, rough - legged hawk and gyrfalcon Arctic char, Arctic grayling, lake trout, and whitefish are also found
  • around 40 avian species in the summer and spring seasons. They include Gyrfalcon Common ringed plover, American golden plover, Horned lark, Rock ptarmigan
  • The Krechet - 94 Russian Кречет, meaning gyrfalcon is a space suit model developed for lunar excursion during the Soviet manned lunar program. It was
  • in southern Europe. It is thought to be the common ancestor of modern gyrfalcons and saker falcons. Johnson, Jeff A. Burnham, Kurt K. Burnham, William
  • 2000, it had a population of 306 people. Akdoğan is the Turkish word for gyrfalcon At the old time some Turkish Oghuz people came to here. They found out
  • was Otters and Martens in 2004, followed by The American Poems 2005 Gyrfalcon Poems 2007 Poems from Afghanistan 2013 and Hen Harrier Poems. In
  • Chokhov s last major works were big battering arquebuses called Кречет Gyrfalcon and Волк Wolf the production of which he supervised in 1627. Andrey
  • Falcondance, and Wolfcry. It is told from the point of view of Hai the gyrfalcon cobra mix, who is struggling to find a way out of Ecl, or the darkness
  • red - tailed hawk, rough - legged hawk, Swainson s hawk, American kestrel, merlin, gyrfalcon peregrine falcon, prairie falcon, and white - tailed kite. The center provides

Gyrfalcon: gyrfalcon ai, gyrfalcon духи

Gyrfalcon духи.

Gyrfalcon BirdWeb. Gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcon. Falco rusticolus. Hawk like Birds Family: Falcons, Falconidae. An estimated 25% of the species North American breeding range lies. Gyrfalcon, Gyr Falcon CITES. The gyrfalcon, an Arctic bird of prey, has survived a close brush with extinction its numbers are now five times greater than when the use. Gyrfalcon Definition of Gyrfalcon at. Stocky beast of a falcon ranges in color from strikingly white to silvery gray to dark sooty brown. Relatively long tail and broad wings with powerful flight.

Gyrfalcon Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures on.

The gyrfalcon is the worlds largest falcon, and one of the fastest: During long flights, it can surpass speeds of 80 miles per hour. Weighing more. Alaskas Birders Birds Gyrfalcon, Alaska Department of Fish and. The gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus, the largest of the falcon species, is a bird of prey. The abbreviation gyr is also used. It breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra, and the. Gyrfalcon Article about gyrfalcon by The Free Dictionary. Posts about gyrfalcon written by Bryce W. Robinson. First pre modern record of the gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus in north. The largest falcon in the world, the ghostly Gyrfalcon is a fierce predator in the High Arctic, where it chases down ptarmigans in flight or plummets from the sky at​.

The worlds largest falcon faces a threat it cant flee: climate change.

The Gyrfalcon GYRF is about 22 long with a wingspan of 47 and weight of 3.1 lb. 1400 g. It is the largest falcon in the world. Gyrfalcon Bird Watchers Digest. Largest of all falcons, and the most northern diurnal raptor, the Gyrfalcon inhabits circumpolar arctic and subarctic regions, with some.

Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus Birds of the World.

Order Falcons Falconiformes. Family Falcons Falconidae. Species Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus. Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus. 1 4. Gyrfalcon, gray juvenile. Gyrfalcon Svalbard birds. An optical tracking device recorded the three dimensional paths of 11 dives by a 1.02 kg gyrfalcon, trained to dive to a falconer. The dives started at altitudes up.

Gyrfalcon Audubon Field Guide National Audubon Society.

The gyrfalcon or Falco rusticolus, also spelled gerfalcon, is the largest of all falcon species. The Gyrfalcon breeds on Arctic coasts and islands of North America,. Gyrfalcon Wiktionary. BEHAVIOR OF A YOUNG GYRFALCON. BY TOM J. CADE. I N THE course of field work supported by a grant from the Arctic Institute of North America and the. Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus Boreal Songbird Initiative. Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus. Gyrfalcon Photo credit: Gyrfalcon @ Dreamstime.​com. NH Conservation Status: Not listed. Federal Status:.

GYRFALCON Official Roguetech.

A Gyrfalcon chick. Hunting Typical quarry caught with the Gyrfalcon are large birds including grouse, pheasant, waterfowl, and ptarmigan and even rabbits or. The Gyrfalcon The Modern Apprentice. The Gyrfalcon is a regular winter visitant to Oregon. The majority of sightings come from coastal and Willamette Valley lowlands near waterfowl concentrations​. GYRFALCON Fishing Vessel Registered in USA Vessel details. Falco rusticolus. With a 4 foot wingspan, the gyrfalcon is the largest falcon in the world. Although it is primarily an Arctic species, it occasionally is seen in.

Gyrfalcon Flathead Audubon Society.

Gyrfalcon Noun Any large falcon, especially as used to fly at herons. gyrfalcon ​Noun A large bird of prey that breeds on Arctic coasts and islands of North. Gyrfalcon Denali National Park & Preserve U.S. National Park. Clan Jade Falcon developed this medium weight BattleMech as part of a Clan ​wide project in the early 3110s, aiming to revitalize the whole Clan. It replaced. Gyrfalcon an overview ScienceDirect Topics. People also search for.

Gyrfalcon Cascades Raptor Center.

Gyrfalcon is the largest, most powerful, rarest N.A. falcon, and likely the most sought after raptor by birders. It is a denizen of the Arctic, nesting on cliffs above. Gyrfalcon Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Gyrfalcon came onstream in December 1999, based on the worlds first 15.000psi subsea tree. This single completion is tied back to Shells GC 19 Boxer facility. Gyrfalcon Eastside Audubon Society. Theyve both become superb birders, too, able to distinguish in a wing beat, for example, a gyrfalcon from a peregrine falcon during a brief aerial tussle.

Gyrfalcon Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

The Gyrfalcon is the largest of all falcons, with females substantially larger than males. They are the most northern of the diurnal raptors. Like other falcons, they. Gyrfalcon The Peregrine Fund. The Gyrfalcon is the largest true falcon in the world. Birds that nest in the arctic regions frequently begin breeding and laying eggs when the temperature is still. Gyrfalcon Ornithology. General Description. The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon in the world. Despite its size, it maintains a falcon like profile with a long tail and long wings. Its wings are​.

Gyrfalcon Hawkwatch International.

Gyrfalcon Technology is the worlds leading developer of low cost, low power, high performance AI processors. Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus South Dakota Birds and Birding. Weapons and Equipment. Built for speed, firepower, and simplicity, the Gyrfalcon became common in Jade Falcon Stars. Its 275 Rated Extra.

Gyrfalcon Nongame New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

PRNewswire - Gyrfalcon Technology, Inc. GTI designed the 4th generation, best of breed neural accelerator specifically for mass market IoT. Gyrfalcon Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. At 22 inches in length and with a wingspan of 47 inches, gyrfalcon is the largest falcon. It is sexually dimorphic not by color but by size, with males weighing. Gyrfalcon Beauty of Birds. Gyrfalcon definition, a large falcon, Falco rusticolus, of arctic and subarctic regions, having white, gray, or blackish color phases: now greatly reduced in number. Gyrfalcon pedia. Gyrfalcon, Falco rusticolus. Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Chordata. Class: Aves. Order: Falconiformes. Family: Falconidae. Genus: Falco.


The gyrfalcon is a bird of prey, the largest falcon in the world. Its plumage varies with location, with birds being colored from all white to dark brown. These color. Appearance Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus Birds of the World. By Ben Long. Gyrfalcon – Photo Credit: Dan Casey. Count yourself lucky if you ever see a gyrfalcon, one of the most striking and remarkable. Gyrfalcon Animal Ark. The Gyrfalcon is the largest true falcon in the world. Gyrfalcons have been highly regarded by falconers throughout falconrys history. Gyrfalcons that nest in the.

The Untold History Of Eagle Huntresses

Falconry, training raptors to hunt for game, is particularly suited to vast grasslands, especially in combination with horses and dogs. The earliest images of falconry appear in Assyrian and Hittite reliefs of the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Classical Greek and Roman authors Ctesias, Aristotle, Pliny, and Aelian described falconry, and in about AD 1270 Marco Polo detailed how the nomads of Central Asia hunted on horseback with small falcons, hawks, and eagles.

FIG 1.1. Kazakh eagle hunter (Shutterstock)

The Powerful Golden Eagle

For thousands of years, golden eagles have been the favorite raptor to train as a hunting companion across the northern steppes from the Caucasus to China. Eagles are strong predators especially adapted to winter hunting for hare, marmot, deer, fox, and even lynx and wolf, in snow-covered grasslands and mountain crags. Female eagles, larger, fiercer, and more powerful than males, are preferred. Fledglings or sub-adult eagles are captured and trained to hunt. After about 10 years they are released to the wild to mate and raise young.

Evidence pointing to eagle hunting's antiquity comes from Scythian and other burial mounds of nomads who roamed the steppes 3,000 years ago and whose artifacts abound in eagle imagery. An ancient Scythian nomad skeleton buried with an eagle was reportedly excavated near Aktobe Gorge, Kazakhstan. Ancient petroglyphs in the Altai region depict eagle hunters and inscribed Chinese stone reliefs show eagles perched on the arms of hunters in tunics, trousers, and boots, identified as northern nomads (1st to 2nd century AD). A Song Dynasty (AD 960) painting shows Khitan nomads of Manchuria practicing their ancient eagle hunting arts. Other eagle-hunting groups in the past included Jurchen, Oirat, Torghut, Kyrgyz, Kalmyk, Kirei, Altaian, Siberian, and Caucasus nomads.

FIG 1.3. Central Asian nomad eagle hunters on ancient Chinese stone reliefs

FIG 1.4. Song Dynasty Khitan eagle hunters, AD 960 (Public Domain)

Horse, Dog and Eagle

Eagle hunting lore is preserved in ancient poems of Central Asia, such as the Kyrgyz Manas epic, in which the hero's death is mourned by his horse, dog, and eagle. In ancient Caucasus legends about great heroes and heroines (Nart Sagas), hunters set forth on fine steeds, hounds trotting along and golden eagles on their arms: “Your horse is ready, your weapons and armor, your hounds and your eagle too.” In eagle hunting, dogs serve as beaters for the eagles.

FIG 1.5. Kazakh eagle hunters, early 1900s (Public Domain)

“Our ancestors had three comrades,” goes the old Kazakh saying, “swift-foot, tazy, and bürkit” (fine horse, Taigan sighthound, and golden eagle). By training these three animals—horse, dog, and eagle—to be companions, the early nomads made the harsh, unforgiving steppes into a land rich with accessible game for furs and food. Today, the ancient arts of bürkitshi (berkutchi, eagle hunters) are carried on by Kazakh nomads dispersed in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Xianjiang (northwest China). The tradition is handed down from generation to generation. One must be tough and patient to learn to hunt with such a formidable bird of prey as the golden eagle. There are nuanced, complex distinctions among capturing, domesticating, training, competing, and actually hunting with eagles.

Featured image: FIG 1.2. Tuva monument, mounted nomad archeress and falconer (Public Domain)

Warrior Women

Male bürkitshi are more common than females today, although eagle hunting has always been open to interested girls. Archaeology suggests that eagle huntresses were probably more common in ancient times. Spectacular archaeological discoveries of graves (ca 700 BC to AD 300) across ancient Scythia, from Ukraine to China, reveals that steppe nomad females engaged in riding and hunting activities and about one third of the women were active warriors in battle.

Unlike settled, patriarchal societies like classical Greece, where women stayed home to weave and mind children, the lives of nomadic steppe tribes centered on horses and archery. Men and women shared the vigorous outdoor life and everyone rode fast horses, shot arrows with deadly accuracy, hunted game, and defended the tribe. The combination of horse riding and archery was the equalizer: a woman on horseback is as fast and agile as a man. This ancient way of life—embracing gender equality—was essential for tribes migrating across oceans of grass, and egalitarian traditions persist in their descendants today.

Archaeological Finds

Remarkable archaeological evidence of a female bürkitshi in antiquity emerged among the famous Urumqi mummies preserved for more than two millennia in the extremely dry Tarim Basin (Xinjiang). The tall, lavishly dressed bodies of men, women, and children were naturally mummified in the arrid desert sand, buried with horse gear, clothing, weapons, and other possessions. One woman wears a sheepskin coat over a colorful woolen skirt on her left hand and forearm is a heavy leather falconry mitten. The exceptional size and thickness matches the distinctive bialeye, protective mitt, worn by eagle hunters in the same region today. Eagles weigh up to 12 pounds and have a very strong grip. To support the eagle on the rider's arm, a baldak, a Y-shaped wooden rest, is attached to the saddle.

FIG 1.6. Mummified eagle huntress with leather eagle-hunting mitt, Tarim Basin, 4th-3rd century BC, Urumqi Museum. (Courtesy of Victor Mair)

Another piece of archaeological evidence for eagle hunting by women in antiquity came to light only recently, on an ancient golden ring (Greek, 425 BC) in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. The full significance of the scene eluded understanding until now. The ring shows a nomad horsewoman, her hair and cloak blowing back to indicate the speed of her galloping horse. She has the reins choked up tight, with a spear in her left hand. The deer is so finely detailed that we can tell the species —a Eurasian spotted fallow buck with broad palmate antlers. Her dog is a Taigan sighthound like those used today by Kazakh eagle hunters.

Art historians had assumed the large bird was a random decoration. But in 2014, in The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, I identified this naturalistic scene as the earliest known image of a female eagle hunter. The bird hovering above the deer’s head is an eagle with hooked beak and spread wings and tail, about to attack the deer. The ring is compelling evidence that ancient Greek travelers, who first encountered steppe tribes in about 700 BC, had heard about or even observed nomadic horsewomen of eastern lands hunting with trained eagles and sighthounds.

FIG 1.7. Gold ring with scene of ancient eagle huntress, 425 BC, Boston Museum of Fine Art, (Painting by Michele Angel)

In addition to artistic and archaeological evidence, an intriguing hint that women might have been more involved in eagle hunting in the past is embedded in a persistent folk belief. Kazakhs traditionally associate bürkitshi with fertility and childbirth. Today about 250 eagle hunters and a handful of young eagle huntresses are keeping the ancient tradition alive.

Nomad Women Have Hunted with Eagles since Antiquity

The ancient practice of eagle hunting is carried on today by a few hundred nomadic Kazakhs in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Xinjiang (northwest China). The majority of Kazakh eagle hunters live in Mongolia, and keep in touch with Kazakhs in other countries.

The Life of an Eagle Hunter

Both Mongolia and the Kazakh community have a long history of women's equality in education, government, medicine, and other fields. Girls and boys start riding horses at age five and help with herds and putting up gers. Women can compete in horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Eagle hunting is traditionally passed down among male relatives, but there are no religious or cultural prohibitions against a girl becoming an eagle hunter (bürkitshi, berkutchi ). Children commonly help to care for the eagles, go along on hunts, and attend eagle festivals. Anyone strong enough to carry an eagle can begin apprenticeship with one's own eagle. The traditional test of a bürkitshi is a successful hunting trip on horseback. Not everyone continues eagle hunting: military service, education, marriage, family, and employment can intervene.

FIG 2.1. Nirgidma with her eagle. Photo by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic 1932 (Public Domain)

The Eagle Huntress Princess Nirgidma

The turbulent history and isolation of Central Asia makes it difficult to trace eagle hunters in the modern era. A Mongol horsewoman-eagle huntress who became a celebrity in Europe in the 1920s was Princess Nirgidma (1907-1983). A highly educated member of the Torghut/Oirat/Kalmyk nomads who ranged from the Altai to the Tarim Basin, Nirgidma was photographed with her hunting eagle in 1932 in Urumqi (where the mummified eagle huntress now resides). “We Mongols are emancipated,” Nirgidma declared in a National Geographic interview, “a good horse and a wide plain, that's our desire.”

During the Soviet era, eagle hunting waned but began to reemerge in the late 20th century, with annual eagle contests, like the Sayat festival at Nura, Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan's Salburun festival began in 1997 Mongolia's festival began in Ulgii in 1999.

FIG 2.2. Makpal and her eagle, 2010, Kazakhstan. (Photo courtesy Dennis Keen)

The Eagle Huntress Makpal Abdrazakova

In 2009, Reuters released a video of the young eagle huntress Makpal Abdrazakova competing in an eagle festival in Kazakhstan. In 2010, falconry historian Dennis Keen photographed Makpal with her eagle. By 2011, many photos, interviews, and videos in international media presented Makpal as the sole female bürkitshi in Kazakhstan. As a child she helped her father with his eagle and at 13 Makpal began training her own eagle Ak Zhelke (“White Neck”). Makpal says Kazakh elders (with one exception) gave their blessing because they “remembered that women used to hunt with horses, dogs, and eagles.”

Makpal, now a lawyer, continues to win eagle contests and encourages other young women. By 2012, her father Murat Abdrazakov was training three new girls aged 8, 12, and 15 in Kazakhstan. That year, a young horsewoman with an eagle appeared at the festival in Ulgii, Mongolia in 2013, a young eagle huntress attended the festival in Nura, Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, in 2009-2013, the eagle hunter Kukan taught a young American woman, Lauren McGough, to be a bürkitshi.

FIG 2.3. Eagle huntress at Nura Eagle Festival, Kazakhstan, 2013 (Ruta Production/Shutterstock) FIG 2.4. Lauren McGough, American eagle huntress in Mongolia, 2009-2013

Aisholpan Carries on Family Legacy of Eagle Hunting

In 2013, Asher Svidensky photographed Kazakh bürkitshi in Mongolia and with the help of his guide “discovered” Aisholpan Nurgaiv, the 13-year-old daughter of an eagle hunter. Her older brother had joined the army and Aisholpan was helping to carry on the family legacy. Svidensky's photo essay of Aisholpan posing with her father's eagle went viral in 2014. Apparently unaware of Makpal and other girls learning skills, Svidensky cited extreme cold and difficult terrain as the reason eagle hunting was reserved for males, and portrayed Aisholpan as the only girl. But since antiquity, the challenging conditions on the steppes have meant that men and women engaged in strenuous riding and other activities together.

FIG 2.5. Aisholpan and her father Agalai, Eagle Festival, Ulgii, Mongolia, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Meghan Fitz-James)

In early 2014, inspired by Svidensky's photos, film maker Otto Bell flew to Mongolia to secure the rights to Aisholpan's story, stating that he “felt a sense of responsibility to carefully bring her story to life through film.” Svidensky and Bell returned later in 2014 to film Aisholpan capturing a fledgling eagle (Ak Kanat, “White Wings”) and competing in the festival in Ulgii, where she won her first eagle hunting contest.

FIG 2.6. Aisholpan, National Geographic 2014, and Otto Bell's “The Eagle Huntress” Sundance poster 2016

The Truth Behind The Eagle Huntress

Bell's breathtaking documentary The Eagle Huntress previewed at Sundance in January 2016 to international acclaim. In interviews, press releases, and publicity for the film —despite widespread knowledge in 2014 of Makpal Adrazakova's prior eagle hunting — Aisholpan is presented as the only girl in history to become an eagle hunter, defying Kazakh elders' belief that women are "too fragile and weak." Bell characterizes Mongolia as backwards and claims that because the Kazakhs live in such isolation they “are ignorant about what women can do.” Interviewed in Mongolia's leading newspaper in 2016, however, Aisholpan's mother Alma stated that there are no restrictions on girls deciding to be eagle hunters. This fact is confirmed by several well-known Kazakh eagle hunters such as Agii Makhsum in Mongolia, and by other female bürkitshi in Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Kazakh families are deeply committed to preserving their ancient legacy.

Aisholpan's younger sister intends to carry on the family's heritage when Aisholpan leaves for college. An extraordinary young woman, Aisholpan has become an empowering example for girls around the world. Her achievements are impressive. But they are made possible not only by her own grit and skill but by her nomadic culture, in which women can be men's equals and girls can train eagles.

Documentary photography and films are expected to be ethnographically sensitive and factual, so it is surprising that the creators of Aisholpan's story for Western audiences fail to acknowledge Makpal's eagle hunting prowess. They also misrepresent the historical independence of women in Kazkah and Mongolian culture. Strong women have always been part of the venerable Kazakh nomad heritage and girls were never forbidden to train eagles. Mongolia is far from backwards: women have voted and held office since 1924 in Mongolia, more than 80 percent of women have secondary education, and 70 percent of college students are women.

New Generations Of Eagle Huntresses

FIG 2.7. Aisulu, at age 5, teaching a young eagle to balance while perched on a horse. (Photo 2010 Mongolia, courtesy of Bek,

In 2010, at age 5, Aisulu began helping her father Ardak train an eagle. Aisulu's parents approved her wish to be a burkitshi at age 11, noting that her grandfather would be very proud. At the 2014 Ulgii festival, while Bell filmed Aisholpan, yet another young eagle huntress in training captured attention: Amanbol, the 9-year-old daughter of the bürkitshi featured in the award-winning documentary The Eagle Hunter's Son (2009, dir. Renè Bo Hansen). The film starred her older brother Bazarbai when he was 12. After their father died, Bazarbai began teaching Amanbol to be an eagle huntress. As Belgian photographer Stefan Cruysberghs remarked, Amanbol and Bazarbai are “the new generation [who] will make sure these ancient traditions will be kept alive.”

FIG 2.8. Amanbol at Eagle Festival, Ulgii, Mongolia, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Cruysberghs)

FIG 2.9. Amanbol and Bazarbai, brother and sister eagle hunters, 2014. (Photo by Terry Allen)

In 2015, Aisholpan and Amanbol attended the Ulgii festival, along with a third young girl bürkitshi apprentice. She is the daughter of Shohan, a prominent eagle hunter in Mongolia.

FIG 2.10. Shohan's daughter, Eagle Festival, Ulgii, Mongolia, 2015. (Photo: Marion Demanet)

Strength and Openness of the Kazakh Community

Historian of Central Asian falconry Takuya Soma points out that falconry disappeared in other less open, sedentary societies. In contrast, Soma notes, eagle hunting persisted and has a future among Kazakhs because of their traditional belief that women can participate in the same activities as men. The “chief reason why eagle hunting is still practiced” is the “absence of strict social regulations to join.” As Dennis Keen notes, "Curious adults and children absorb eagle hunting not just from 'masters' but from from the culture at large." Soma, Keen, McGough, and the Kazkahs themselves affirm that anyone young or old, male or female, is free to find a teacher, "capture and own their eagle, and hunt without any restrictions.” Rather than exclusive to “Kazakh masculinity," bürkitshi techniques are “shared with community members, elders, wives, and children,” even non-Kazakhs. This “open knowledge and free participation," open to anyone strong, capable, and determined enough, continues Soma, “is a remarkable trait in pastoralist society,” unlike the all-male elite hunting of sedentary cultures.

“Generally men used to participate in the festival” at Ulgii, remarks Mongolian photographer Batzaya Choijiljav, but “the younger generation” of eagle hunters includes girls, ensuring its future. The intrepid eagle huntresses Makpal, Aisholpan, Aisulu, Amanbol, and the new generation of eagle hunters' daughters are capturing world attention through photographs and film. The great excitement surrounding their extraordinary accomplishments is a powerful affirmation of the egalitarian values that were once taken for granted among the ancient steppe nomad cultures.

Please note:

The Ancient Origins article was published April 6, 2016, reprinted in BUST on April 18, 2016.

The section of the article about Aisholpan carrying on her family's legacy reflected the ORIGINAL claims made by the filmmakers in their advertising, press releases, reviews, and interviews as of the writing, after the film was shown at Sundance in January to April 2016.

The sources for that section are all clearly documented at the end of the article (see the sources attached below additional sources are listed in a long version of the article, available on my Stanford webpage).

The section about Aisholpan in the documentary was written in the hope that the documentary producers would change their claims to reflect the truth about the history of eagle hunting, Aisholpan's amazing accomplishments, other eagle huntresses past and present, and her culture.

In fact, soon after my article came out in April 2016, I was delighted to learn that the director and producers hired the noted Public Relations agent/"coach," Reid Rosefelt, to help them modify the previous public statements and create new, accurate PR for "The Eagle Huntress."

Indeed, they have now CHANGED their earlier official statements and in current PR materials and recent interviews they now say that Aisholpan was the first female in 12 generations of her family and the first female to compete in the Mongolian eagle festival.

These are true statements and they are different from their original claims in January to April 2016, in which they repeatedly stated that she was the first girl to train an eagle in 2,000 years and that her culture was "backward" and "misogynistic."

I stand by the accuracy of my article as written in Jan-April 2016.

The section on Aisholpan carrying out her family legacy was written expressly to address the misrepresentations current as of the writing and it succeeded in that aim.

Top image: Featured image: 13 year old Asholpan, Eagle Huntress. (, Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

More from BUST

Adrienne Mayor, Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University, is the author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (2014), and The Poison King: Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.

Jurchen Falconer - History

Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry found throughout the Eurasian Steppe , practiced by the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz in contemporary Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan , as well as diasporas in Bayan-Ulgii Provinces Bayan-Ulgii , Mongolia , and Xinjiang , China . Though these people are most famous for hunting with golden eagles , they have been known to train northern goshawks , peregrine falcons , saker falcons , and more.

In both Kazakh and Kyrgyz, there are separate terms for those who hunt with birds of prey in general, and those who hunt with eagles.

In Kazakh, both qusbegi and sayatshy refer to falconers in general. Qusbegi comes from the words qus bird and bek lord, thus literally translating as lord of birds. In Old Turkic, kush begiwas a title used for the khan’s most respected advisors, reflecting the valued role of the court falconer. Sayatshy comes from the word sayat falconry and the suffix -shy, used for professional titles in Turkic languages. The Kazakh word for falconers that hunt with eagles is búrkitshy, from búrkit golden eagle, while the word for those that use goshawks is qarshyghashy, from qarshygha goshawk.

In Kyrgyz, the general word for falconers is münüshkör. A falconer who specifically hunts with eagles is a bürkütchü, from bürküt golden eagle.

Military organization [ edit | edit source ]

With the help of their mounted archers, the Mongols conquered most of Eurasia.

The number of troops mustered by the Mongols is the subject of some scholarly debate, ⏪] but was at least 105,000 in 1206. ⏫] The Mongol military organization was simple but effective, based on the decimal system. The army was built up from squads of ten men each, called an arbat ten arbats constituted a company of one hundred, called a zuut ten zuuts made a regiment of one thousand called myanghan and ten myanghans would then constitute a division of ten thousand (tumen). ⏬]

The Mongols were most famous for their horse archers, but troops armed with lances were equally skilled, and the Mongols recruited other military talents from the cities they conquered. With experienced Chinese engineers and bombardier corps who were experts in building trebuchets, Xuanfeng catapults and other machines, the Mongols could lay siege to fortified positions, sometimes building machinery on the spot using available local resources. ⏬]

Forces under the command of the Mongol Empire were trained, organized, and equipped for mobility and speed. Mongol soldiers were more lightly armored than many of the armies they faced, but able to make up for it with maneuverability. Each Mongol warrior would usually travel with multiple horses, allowing him to quickly switch to a fresh mount as needed. In addition, soldiers of the Mongol army functioned independently of supply lines, considerably speeding up army movement. ⏭]

Skilful use of couriers enabled these armies to maintain contact with each other and their leadership. Discipline was inculcated during a nerge (traditional hunt), as reported by Juvayni. These hunts were distinctive from hunts in other cultures where they were the equivalent to small unit actions. Mongol forces would spread out in a line, surround an entire region, and then drive all of the game within that area together. The goal was to let none of the animals escape and slaughter them all. ⏭]

Another advantage of the Mongols was their ability to traverse large distances even in unusual cold winters for instance, frozen rivers led them like highways to large urban centers on their banks. In addition to siege engineering, the Mongols were also adept at river-work, crossing the river Sajó in spring flood conditions with thirty thousand cavalry soldiers in a single night during the battle of Mohi (April, 1241) to defeat the Hungarian king Béla IV. Similarly, in the attack against the Muslim Khwarezmshah, a flotilla of barges was used to prevent escape on the river. [ citation needed ]

Traditionally known for their prowess with ground forces, the Mongols rarely used naval power, with a few exceptions. In the 1260s and 1270s they used seapower while conquering the Song Dynasty of China, though they were unable to mount successful seaborne campaigns against Japan. Around the Eastern Mediterranean, their campaigns were almost exclusively land-based, with the seas being controlled by the Crusader and Mamluk forces. ⏮]

All military campaigns were preceded by careful planning, reconnaissance and gathering of sensitive information relating to enemy territories and forces. The success, organization and mobility of the Mongol armies permitted them to fight on several fronts at once. All adult males up to the age of 60 were eligible for conscription into the army, a source of honor in their tribal warrior tradition. ⏯]

About Us

The FHT aims to establish a portal for the world's falconers and other interested parties to access aspects of the sport's rich heritage by linking existing physical archives, including international private and public collections, through the medium of an electronic archive. This archive will feature falconry furniture, works of art, books, correspondence from leading falconers and film and photographic material for the education and interest of falconer and scholar alike. We hope that, whatever your background or interest in our sport, you may find something of value through our archive to deepen your knowledge, understanding and passion for falconry and will help us, through your support, to preserve this precious cultural heritage for future generations.


The gyrfalcon was formally described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae under its current binomial name Falco rusticolus. [3] The genus name is the Late Latin term for a falcon, Falco, from falx, falcis, a sickle, referencing the talons of the bird. [4] The species name is from the Latin rusticolus, a countryside-dweller, from rus, ruris, "country" and colere, "to dwell". [5] The bird's common name comes from French gerfaucon in Medieval Latin, it is gyrofalco. The first part of the word may come from Old High German gîr (cf. modern German Geier) for "vulture", referring to its size compared to other falcons or from the Latin gȳrus for "circle" or "curved path", in turn from the Ancient Greek γῦρος, gûros, meaning "circle" – from the species' circling as it searches for prey, distinct from the hunting of other falcons in its range. [nb 1] The male gyrfalcon is called a gyrkin in falconry.

The gyrfalcon is a very polymorphic species, so its plumage varies greatly. The archetypal morphs are called "white", "silver", "brown", and "black", though they can be coloured on a spectrum from all-white to very dark. The brown form of the gyrfalcon is distinguished from the peregrine by the cream streaking on the nape and crown and by the absence of a well-defined malar stripe and cap. The black morph has a strongly black-spotted underside, rather than finely barred as in the peregrine. White form gyrfalcons are the only predominantly white falcons. Silver gyrfalcons resemble a light grey lanner falcon of larger size. The species shows no sex-based colour differences juveniles are darker and browner than adults.

The black color seems to be sex-linked and to occur mostly in females it proved difficult for breeders to get males darker than the dark side of slate grey. A color variety that arose in captive breeding is "black chick". [10]

Painting of a Greenland white morph (center), an intermediate (lower left), and black morph (back)

Male with a darker "silver" coloration

Painting of brown morph adult (center) and juveniles

The gyrfalcon is a member of the hierofalcon complex. In this group, ample evidence indicates hybridisation and incomplete lineage sorting, which confounds analyses of DNA sequence data to a massive extent. The radiation of the entire living diversity of hierofalcons took place around the Eemian Stage at the start of the Late Pleistocene. It represents lineages that expanded into the Holarctic and adapted to local conditions this is in contrast to less northerly populations of northeastern Africa (where the radiation probably originated) that evolved into the saker falcon. Gyrfalcons hybridize not infrequently with sakers in the Altai Mountains, and this gene flow seems to be the origin of the Altai falcon. [11] [12] [13] [14]

Some correlation exists between locality and colour morph. Greenland gyrfalcons are lightest, with white plumage flecked with grey on the back and wings being most common. Other subpopulations have varying amounts of the darker morphs: the Icelandic birds tend towards pale, whereas the Eurasian populations are considerably darker and typically incorporate no white birds. Natural separation into regional subspecies is prevented by gyrfalcons' habit of flying long distances whilst exchanging alleles between subpopulations thus, the allele distributions for the color polymorphism form clines and in darker birds [nb 2] of unknown origin, theoretically any allele combination might be present. For instance, a mating of a pair of captive gyrfalcons is documented to have produced a clutch of four young: one white, one silver, one brown, and one black. Molecular work suggests plumage color is associated with the melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R), where a nonsynonymous point substitution was perfectly associated with the white/melanic polymorphism. [15]

In general, geographic variation follows Bergmann's rule for size and the demands of crypsis for plumage coloration. Several subspecies have been named according to perceived differences between populations [nb 3] [16] [17] but none of these are consistent and thus no living subspecies are currently accepted. The Icelandic population described as F. r. islandus is perhaps the most distinct. The predominantly white Arctic forms are parapatric and seamlessly grade into the subarctic populations. The Iceland types are presumed to have less gene flow with their neighbors they show less variation in plumage colors. Comprehensive phylogeographic studies to determine the proper status of the Icelandic population have yet to be performed. [16] [18]

A population genetic study, [17] however, identified the Iceland population as genetically unique relative to other sampled populations in both eastern and western Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Norway. Further, within Greenland, differing levels of gene flow between western and eastern sampling locations were identified, with apparent asymmetric dispersal in western Greenland from north to south. This dispersal bias is in agreement with the distribution of plumage colour variants with white gyrfalcons in much higher proportion in north Greenland. [17] Although further work is required to determine the ecological factors contributing to these distributions relative to plumage differences, a study using demographic data suggested that plumage color distribution in Greenland may be influenced by nesting chronology with white individuals and pairs laying eggs earlier in the breeding season and producing more offspring. [19]

Swarth's gyrfalcon Edit

A paleosubspecies, Falco rusticolus swarthi, existed during the Late Pleistocene (125,000 to 13,000 years ago). Fossils found in Little Box Elder Cave (Converse County, Wyoming), Dark Canyon Cave (Eddy County, New Mexico), and McKittrick, California were initially described as Falco swarthi ("Swarth falcon" or more properly "Swarth's gyrfalcon") on account of their distinct size. They have meanwhile proven to be largely inseparable from those of living gyrfalcons, except for being somewhat larger. [20] [21] [22] [23]

Swarth's gyrfalcon was on the upper end of the present gyrfalcon's size range, with some stronger females even surpassing it. [21] It seems to have had some adaptations to the temperate semiarid climate that predominated in its range during the last ice age. Ecologically more similar to current Siberian populations (which are generally composed of smaller birds) or to the prairie falcon, this temperate steppe population must have preyed on landbirds and mammals rather than the sea and landbirds which make up much of the American gyrfalcon's diet today.

The gyrfalcon was originally thought to be a bird of tundra and mountains only however, in June 2011, it was revealed to spend considerable periods during the winter on sea ice far from land. [24] It feeds only on birds and mammals, the latter of which it takes more regularly than many other Falco species. Like other hierofalcons, it usually hunts in a horizontal pursuit, rather than with the peregrine's speedy stoop from a height. Most prey is killed on the ground, whether they are captured there, or if the victim is a flying bird, forced to the ground. The diet is to some extent opportunistic, but a majority breed and hunt coinciding with ptarmigan and seabird colonies. Avian prey can range in size from redpolls to geese and can include gulls, corvids, smaller passerines, waders, and other raptors (up to the size of Buteos). Mammalian prey can range in size from shrews to marmots (sometimes thrice the weight of the assaulting falcon), and often includes lemmings, voles, ground squirrels, hares and rarely also bats. [25] They are rarely observed eating carrion.

Threat from climate change Edit

In the early 2000s, it was observed that as climate change began to temper the Arctic summers, peregrine falcons were expanding their range north, and competing with gyrfalcons. Although it is specially adapted for high-Arctic life, and larger than the peregrine, the gyrfalcon is less aggressive and more conflict-averse, and so is unable to compete with peregrines, which regularly attack and overwhelm the gyrs. There is a fear that gyrs will become extinct in their former range within the next ten to five years. [26]

The only natural predators of gyrfalcons are golden eagles, and even they rarely engage with these formidable falcons. Gyrfalcons have been recorded as aggressively harassing animals that come near their nests, although common ravens are the only predators known to successfully pick off gyrfalcon eggs and hatchlings. Even brown bears have been reportedly dive-bombed. Humans, whether accidentally (automobile collisions or poisoning of carrion to kill mammalian scavengers) or intentionally (through hunting), are the leading cause of death for gyrfalcons. Gyrfalcons that survive into adulthood can live up to 20 years of age.

As F. rusticolus has such a wide range, it is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN. [1] It is not much affected by habitat destruction, but pollution, for instance by pesticides, depressed its numbers in the mid-20th century, and until 1994 it was considered "Near Threatened". Improving environmental standards in developed countries have allowed the birds to make a comeback. [1]

Mongol Empire

The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. [5] Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northward into parts of the Arctic [6] eastward and southward into the Indian subcontinent, Mainland Southeast Asia and the Iranian Plateau and westward as far as the Levant, Carpathian Mountains and to the borders of Northern Europe.

The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of several nomadic tribes in the Mongol homeland under the leadership of Genghis Khan (c. 1162 –1227), whom a council proclaimed as the ruler of all Mongols in 1206. The empire grew rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent out invading armies in every direction. [7] [8] The vast transcontinental empire connected the East with the West, the Pacific to the Mediterranean, in an enforced Pax Mongolica, allowing the dissemination and exchange of trade, technologies, commodities and ideologies across Eurasia. [9] [10]

The empire began to split due to wars over succession, as the grandchildren of Genghis Khan disputed whether the royal line should follow from his son and initial heir Ögedei or from one of his other sons, such as Tolui, Chagatai, or Jochi. The Toluids prevailed after a bloody purge of Ögedeid and Chagatayid factions, but disputes continued among the descendants of Tolui. A key reason for the split was the dispute over whether the Mongol Empire would become a sedentary, cosmopolitan empire, or would stay true to the Mongol nomadic and steppe-based lifestyle. After Möngke Khan died (1259), rival kurultai councils simultaneously elected different successors, the brothers Ariq Böke and Kublai Khan, who fought each other in the Toluid Civil War (1260–1264) and also dealt with challenges from the descendants of other sons of Genghis. [11] [12] Kublai successfully took power, but civil war ensued as he sought unsuccessfully to regain control of the Chagatayid and Ögedeid families.

During the reigns of Genghis and Ögedei, the Mongols suffered the occasional defeat when a less skilled general received the command. The Siberian Tumeds defeated the Mongol forces under Borokhula around 1215–1217 Jalal al-Din defeated Shigi-Qutugu at the Battle of Parwan in 1221 and the Jin generals Heda and Pu'a defeated Dolqolqu in 1230. In each case, the Mongols returned shortly after with a much larger army led by one of their best generals, and were invariably victorious. The Battle of Ain Jalut in Galilee in 1260 marked the first time that the Mongols would not return to immediately avenge a defeat, due to a combination of the death of Möngke Khan in 1259, the Toluid Civil War between Ariq Böke and Kublai Khan, and Berke Khan of the Golden Horde attacking Hulagu Khan in Persia. Although the Mongols launched many more invasions of the Levant, briefly occupying it and raiding as far as Gaza after a decisive victory at the Battle of Wadi al-Khaznadar in 1299, they withdrew due to various geopolitical factors.

By the time of Kublai's death in 1294 the Mongol Empire had fractured into four separate khanates or empires, each pursuing its own interests and objectives: the Golden Horde khanate in the northwest, the Chagatai Khanate in Central Asia, the Ilkhanate in the southwest, and the Yuan dynasty in the east, based in modern-day Beijing. [13]

In 1304, the three western khanates briefly accepted the nominal suzerainty of the Yuan dynasty, [14] [15] but in 1368 the Han Chinese Ming dynasty took over the Mongol capital. The Genghisid rulers of the Yuan retreated to the Mongolian homeland and continued to rule there as the Northern Yuan dynasty. The Ilkhanate disintegrated in the period 1335–1353. The Golden Horde had broken into competing khanates by the end of the 15th century and was defeated and thrown out of Russia in 1480 by the Grand Duchy of Moscow while the Chagatai Khanate lasted in one form or another until 1687.

After the 1260 to 1264 succession war between Kublai Khan and his brother Ariq Böke, Kublai's power became limited to the eastern part of the empire, centred on China. Kublai officially issued an imperial edict on 18 December 1271 to name his realm Great Yuan (Dai Yuan, or Dai Ön Ulus) and to establish the Yuan dynasty. Some sources give the full Mongolian name as Dai Ön Yehe Monggul Ulus. [17]


Pre-empire context

The area around Mongolia, Manchuria, and parts of North China had been controlled by the Liao Dynasty since the 10th century. In 1125, the Jin Dynasty founded by the Jurchens overthrew the Liao Dynasty, and attempted to gain control over former Liao territory in Mongolia. The Jin Dynasty rulers, known as the Golden Kings, successfully resisted in the 1130s the Khamag Mongol confederation, ruled at the time by Khabul Khan, great grandfather of Temujin (Genghis Khan). The Mongolian plateau was occupied mainly by five powerful tribal confederations (khanlig): Kereit, Khamag Mongol, Naiman, Mergid and Tatar. The Jin emperors, following a policy of divide and rule, encouraged disputes among the tribes, especially between the Tatars and Mongols, in order to keep the nomadic tribes distracted by their own battles, and thereby away from themselves. Khabul's successor was Ambaghai Khan, who was betrayed by the Tatars, handed to the Jurchen and executed. The Mongols retaliated by raiding the frontier, resulting in a failed Jurchen counter-attack in 1143. In 1147, the Jin somewhat changed their policy, signing a peace treaty with the Mongols and withdrawing a score of forts. The Mongols then resumed attacks on the Tatars to avenge the death of their late khan, opening a long period of active hostilities. The Jin and Tatar armies defeated the Mongols in 1161.

Genghis Khan

History of the Mongols
Before Genghis Khan
Khamag Mongol
Mongol Empire
- Chagatai Khanate
- Golden Horde
- Ilkhanate
- Yuan Dynasty
Northern Yuan
Timurid Empire
Mughal Empire
Crimean Khanate
Khanate of Sibir
Nogai Horde
Astrakhan Khanate
Kazan Khanate
Zunghar Khanate
Mongolia during Qing
Outer Mongolia (1911-1919)
Republic of China ( Occupation of Mongolia)
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Known during his childhood as Temujin, Genghis Khan was the son of a Mongol chieftain. He suffered a difficult childhood, and when his young wife Börte was kidnapped by a rival tribe, Temujin united the nomadic, previously ever-rivaling Mongol-Turkic tribes under his rule through political manipulation and military might. His most powerful allies were his father's friend, Kereyd chieftain Wang Khan Toghoril, and Temujin's childhood anda (blood brother) Jamukha of the Jadran clan. With their help, Temujin defeated the Merkit tribe, rescued his wife Börte, and then went on to defeat the Naimans and Tatars.

Temujin forbade looting of his enemies without permission, and implemented a policy of sharing spoils with the Mongol warriors and their families, instead of giving all to the aristocrats. He thus held the Khan title. These policies brought him into conflict with his uncles, who were also legitimate heirs to the throne they regarded Temujin not as leader but merely an insolent usurper. This controversy spread to his generals and other associates, and some Mongols who had previously been allies with him broke their allegiance. War ensued, but Temujin and the forces still loyal to him prevailed, and from 1203&ndash1205 destroyed all the remaining rival tribes and brought them under his sway. In 1206, Temujin was crowned as the Khaghan of the Yekhe Mongol Ulus (Great Mongol Nation) at a Kurultai (general assembly/council). It was there that he assumed the title of "Genghis Khan" (universal leader) instead of one of the old tribal titles such as Gur Khan or Tayang Khan, and marked the start of the Mongol Empire.

Early organization

Genghis Khan innovated many ways of organizing his army, dividing it into decimal subsections of arbans (10 people), zuuns (100), myangans (1000) and tumens (10,000). The Kheshig or the Imperial Guard was founded and divided into day ( khorchin, torghuds) and night guards ( khevtuul). He rewarded those who had been loyal to him and placed them in high positions, placing them as heads of army units and households, even though many of his allies had been from very low-rank clans. Compared to the units he gave to his loyal companions, those assigned to his own family members were quite few. He proclaimed a new law of the empire, Ikh Zasag or Yassa, and codified everything related to the everyday life and political affairs of the nomads at the time. He forbade the selling of women, theft of other's properties, fighting between the Mongols, and the hunting of animals during the breeding season.

He appointed his adopted brother Shigi-Khuthugh supreme judge (jarughachi), ordering him to keep records of the empire. In addition to laws regarding family, food and army, Genghis also decreed religious freedom and supported domestic and international trade. He exempted the poor and the clergy from taxation. Thus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians from Manchuria, North China, India and Persia joined Genghis Khan long before his foreign conquests. He also encouraged literacy, adopting the Uyghur script which would form the Uyghur-Mongolian script of the empire, and he ordered the Uyghur Tatatunga, who had previously served the khan of Naimans, to instruct his sons.

Genghis quickly came into conflict with the Jin Dynasty of the Jurchens and the Western Xia of the Tanguts in northern China. Towards the West, he moved into Central Asia as well, devastating Transoxiana and the eastern Persia, then raiding into Kievan Rus' (a predecessor state of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) and the Caucasus.

Before his death, Genghis Khan divided his empire among his sons and immediate family, making the Mongol Empire the joint property of the entire imperial family who, along with the Mongol aristocracy, constituted the ruling class.

Expansion under Ögedei

The Mongol Empire started in Central Asia, with the unification of Mongol and Turkic tribes. Under the leadership of Genghis Khan, the empire expanded westwards across Asia into the Middle East, Rus, and Europe southward into India and China and eastward as far as the Korean Peninsula, and into Southeast Asia.

Genghis Khan died in 1227, by which point the Mongol Empire ruled from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea &ndash an empire twice the size of the Roman Empire and Muslim Caliphate. Genghis had stated that his heir should be his third son, the charismatic Ögedei. The regency was originally held by Ögedei's younger brother Tolui, until Ögedei's formal election at the kurultai in 1229.

Among his first actions, Ögedei sent troops to subjugate the Bashkirs, Bulgars, and other nations in the Kipchak-controlled steppes. In the east, Ögedei's armies re-established Mongol authority in Manchuria, crushing the Eastern Xia regime and Water Tatars. In 1230, the Great Khan personally led his army in the campaign against the Jin Dynasty (China). Ögedei's general Subutai captured Emperor Wanyan Shouxu's capital, Kaifeng in 1232. In 1234, three armies commanded by Ögedei's sons Kochu and Koten, as well as the Tangut general Chagan, invaded southern China. With the assistance of the Song Dynasty, the Mongols finished off the Jin in 1234. In the West, Ögedei's general Chormaqan destroyed Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, the last shah of the Khwarizmian Empire. The small kingdoms in Southern Persia voluntarily accepted Mongol supremacy. In East Asia, there were a number of Mongolian campaigns into Goryeo Korea, but Ögedei's attempt to annex the Korean Peninsula met with little success. The king of Goryeo, Gojong, surrendered but revolted and massacred Mongol darughachis (overseers), and then moved his imperial court from Gaeseong to Ganghwa Island.

As the empire grew, Ögedei established a Mongol capital at Karakorum in northwestern Mongolia.

Meanwhile, in an offensive action against the Song Dynasty, Mongol armies captured Siyang-yang, the Yangtze and Sichuan, but did not secure their control over the conquered sites. The Song generals were able to recapture Siyang-yang from the Mongols in 1239. After the sudden death of Ögedei's son Kochu in Chinese territory, the Mongols withdrew from southern China, although Kochu's brother Prince Koten invaded Tibet right after their withdrawal.

Another grandson of Genghis Khan, Batu Khan, overran the countries of the Bulgars, the Alans, the Kypchaks, Bashkirs, Mordvins, Chuvash, and other nations of the southern Russian steppe. By 1237, the Mongols began encroaching upon their first Russian principality, Ryazan. After a 3 day-siege using heavy attacks, the Mongols captured the city and massacred its inhabitants, then proceeded to destroy the army of the Grand principality of Vladimir at the Sit River. The Mongols captured the Alania capital, Maghas, in 1238. By 1240, all Rus&rsquo lands including Kiev had fallen to the Asian invaders except for a few northern cities. Mongol troops under Chormaqan in Persia connected his invasion of Transcaucasia with the invasion of Batu and Subutai, forced the Georgian and Armenian nobles to surrender as well.

Despite the military successes, strife continued within the Mongol ranks. Batu's relations with Güyük, Ögedei's eldest son, and Büri, the beloved grandson of Chagatai Khan, remained tense, and worsened during Batu's victory banquet in southern Russia, nevertheless Güyük and Buri couldn´t do anything to harm Batu's position as long as his uncle Ögedei was still alive. Meanwhile, Ögedei continued with Mongol invasions into the Indian subcontinent, temporarily investing Uchch, Lahore and Multan of the Delhi Sultanate and stationing a Mongol overseer in Kashmir, though the invasions into India eventually failed and were forced to drive back. In northeastern Asia, Ögedei agreed to settle conflicts with Goryeo by making it a client state and sent Mongolian princesses to wed Goryeo princes. He then reinforced his keshig with the Koreans through both diplomacy and military force.

The advance into Europe continued with Mongol invasions of Poland and Hungary. When the western flank of the Mongols plundered Polish cities, a European alliance between the Poles, the Moravians, and the Christian military orders of the Hospitallers, Teutonic Knights and the Templars assembled sufficient forces to halt, although briefly, the Mongol advance at Legnica. The Hungarian army, their Croatian allies and the Templar Knights were beaten by Mongols at the banks of Sajo River on April 11, 1241. After their victories over European Knights at Legnica and Muhi, Mongol armies quickly advanced across Bohemia, Serbia, Babenberg Austria and into the Holy Roman Empire, but before Batu's forces could continue into Vienna and northern Albania, news of Ögedei's death in December 1241 brought a halt to the invasion. As was customary in Mongol military tradition, all princes of Genghis's line had to attend the kurultai to elect a successor. Batu and his western Mongol army withdrew from Central Europe the next year.

Post-Ögedei power struggles

Following the Great Khan Ögedei's death in 1241, and before the next kurultai, Ögedei's widow Töregene took over the empire. She persecuted her husband's Khitan and Muslim officials, giving high positions to her own allies instead. She built palaces, cathedrals and social structures on an imperial scale, supporting religion and education. She was able to win over most Mongol aristocrats to support Ögedei's son Güyük. But Batu, ruler of the Golden Horde, refused to come to the kurultai, claiming he was ill and the Mongolian climate was too harsh for him. The resulting stalemate lasted more than four years. It also further destabilized the unity of the empire.

When Genghis Khan's youngest brother Temüge threatened Töregene to seize the throne, Güyük came to Karakorum to try and secure his position. Batu eventually agreed to send his brothers and generals to the kurultai which Töregene convened in 1246. Güyük by this time was ill and alcoholic, but his campaigns in Manchuria and Europe gave him the kind of stature necessary for a Great Khan. He was duly elected at a ceremony attended by Mongols and foreign dignitaries from both within and without the empire&mdashleaders of vassal nations, and representatives from Rome and other entities, who came to the kurultai to show their respects and negotiate diplomacy.

Güyük took steps to reduce corruption, announcing that he would continue the policies of his father Ögedei, not Töregene. He punished Töregene's supporters, except governor Arghun the Elder. He also replaced young Qara Hülëgü, the khan of the Chagatai Khanate, with his favorite cousin Yesü Möngke to assert his newly conferred powers. He restored his father's officials to their former positions and was surrounded by the Uyghur, Naiman and Central Asian officials, favoring Han Chinese commanders who helped his father's conquest of Northern China. He continued military operations in Korea, advanced into Song China in the south and Iraq in the west, and ordered an empire-wide census. Güyük also divided the Sultanate of Rum between Izz-ad-Din Kaykawus and Rukn ad-Din Kilij Arslan, though Kaykawus disagreed with this decision.

Not all parts of the empire respected Güyük's election. The Hashshashins, former Mongol allies whose Grand Master Hasan Jalalud-Din had offered his submission to Genghis Khan in 1221, angered Güyük by refusing to submit, instead murdering Mongol generals in Persia. Güyük appointed his best friend's father Eljigidei as chief commander of the troops in Persia, and gave them the task of both reducing the strongholds of the Assassins Muslim mouvement, and conquering the Abbasids in the centre of the Islamic world, Iran and Iraq.

In 1248, Güyük raised more troops and suddenly marched westwards from the Mongol capital of Karakorum. The reasoning was unclear: some sources wrote that he sought to recuperate his personal property Emyl others suggested that he might have been moving to join Eljigidei to conduct a full-scale conquest of the Middle East, or possibly to make a surprise attack on his rival cousin Batu Khan in Russia. Suspicious of Güyük's motives, Sorghaghtani Beki, the widow of Genghis's son Tolui, secretly warned her nephew Batu of Güyük's approach. Batu had himself been traveling eastwards at the time, possibly to pay homage, or perhaps with other plans in mind. Before the forces of Batu and Güyük met though, Güyük, sick and worn out by travel, died en route at Qum-Senggir (Hong-siang-yi-eulh) in Xinjiang, possibly a victim of poison.

Güyük's widow Oghul Qaimish stepped forward to take control of the empire, but she lacked the skills of her mother-in-law Töregene, and her young sons Khoja and Naku and other princes challenged her authority. To decide on a new Great Khan, Batu called a kurultai on his own territory in 1250. As it was far from the Mongolian heartland, members of the Ögedeid and Chagataid families refused to attend. The kurultai offered the throne to Batu, but he rejected it, claiming he had no interest in the position. He instead nominated Möngke, a grandson of Genghis of his son Tolui lineage. Möngke was leading a Mongol army in Russia, Northern Caucasus and Hungary. The pro-Tolui faction rose up and supported Batu's choice, and Möngke was elected, though given the kurultai's limited attendance and location, it was of questionable validity. Batu sent Möngke under the protection of his brothers, Berke and Tukhtemur, and his son Sartaq to assemble a more formal kurultai at Kodoe Aral in the heartland. The supporters of Möngke invited Oghul Qaimish and other main Ögedeid and Chagataid princes to attend the kurultai, but they refused each time. The Ögedeid and Chagataid princes refused to accept a descendant of Genghis's son Tolui as leader, demanding that only descendants of Genghis's son Ögedei could be Great Khan.

Toluid reformation

When Möngke's mother Sorghaghtani and their cousin Berke organized a second kurultai on July 1, 1251, the assembled throng proclaimed Möngke Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. This marked a major shift in the leadership of the empire, transferring power from the descendants of Genghis's son Ögedei to the descendants of Genghis's son Tolui. The decision was acknowledged by a few of the Ögedeid and Chagataid princes, such as Möngke's cousin Kadan and the deposed khan Qara Hülëgü, but one of the other legitimate heirs, Ögedei's grandson Shiremun, sought to topple Möngke. Shiremun moved with his own forces towards the emperor's nomadic palace with a plan for an armed attack, but Möngke was alerted by his falconer of the plan. Möngke ordered an investigation of the plot, which led to a series of major trials all across the empire. Many members of the Mongol elite were found guilty and put to death, with estimates ranging from 77&ndash300, though princes of Genghis's royal line were often exiled rather than executed. Möngke eliminated the Ögedeid and the Chagatai families' estates and shared the western part of the empire with his ally Batu Khan. After the bloody purge, Möngke ordered a general amnesty for prisoners and captives, but ever after, the power of the Great Khan's throne remained firmly with the descendants of Genghis's son Tolui.

Möngke was a serious man who followed the laws of his ancestors and avoided alcoholism. He was tolerant of outside religions and artistic styles, which led to the building of foreign merchants' quarters, Buddhist monasteries, mosques, and Christian churches in the Mongol capital. As construction projects continued, Karakorum was adorned with Chinese, European and Persian architecture. One famous example was a large silver tree with cleverly designed pipes which dispensed various drinks. The tree, topped by a triumphant angel, was crafted by Guillaume Boucher, a Parisian goldsmith.

Although he had a strong Chinese contingent, Möngke relied heavily on Muslim and Mongol administrators, and launched a series of economic reforms to make government expenses more predictable. His court limited government spending and prohibited nobles and troops from abusing civilians or issuing edicts without authorization. He commuted the contribution system into a fixed poll tax which was collected by imperial agents and forwarded to units in need. His court also tried to lighten the tax burden on commoners by reducing tax rates. Along with the reform of the tax system, he reinforced the guards at the postal relays and centralized control of monetary affairs. Möngke also ordered an empire-wide census in 1252 which took several years to complete, not being finished until Novgorod in the far northwest was counted in 1258.

In another move to consolidate his power, Möngke assigned his brothers Hulagu and Kublai to rule Persia and Mongol-held China. In the southern part of the empire, he continued his predecessors' struggle against the Song Dynasty. In order to outflank the Song from three directions, Möngke dispatched Mongol armies under his brother Kublai to Yunnan, and under his uncle Iyeku to subdue Korea and pressure the Song from that direction as well. Kublai conquered the Dali Kingdom in 1253, and Möngke's general Qoridai stabilized his control over Tibet, inducing leading monasteries to submit to Mongol rule. Subutai's son, Uryankhadai, reduced neighboring peoples of Yunnan to submission and beat the Trần Dynasty in northern Vietnam into temporary submission in 1258.

After stabilizing the empire's finances, Möngke once again sought to expand its borders. At kurultais in Karakorum in 1253 and 1258 he approved new invasions of the Middle East and south China. Möngke put Hulagu in overall charge of military and civil affairs in Persia, and appointed Chagataids and Jochids to join Hulagu's army. The Muslims from Qazvin denounced the menace of the Nizari Ismailis, a heretical sect of Shiites. The Mongol Naiman commander Kitbuqa began to assault several Ismaili fortresses in 1253, before Hulagu deliberately advanced in 1256. Ismaili Grand Master Rukn ud-Din surrendered in 1257 and was executed. All of the Ismaili strongholds in Persia were destroyed by Hulagu's army in 1257 though Girdukh held out until 1271.

The centre of the Islamic Empire at the time was Baghdad, which had held power for 500 years but was suffering internal divisions. When its caliph al-Mustasim refused to submit to the Mongols, Baghdad was besieged and captured by the Mongols in 1258, an event considered as one of the most catastrophic events in the history of Islam, and sometimes compared to the rupture of the Kaaba. With the destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate, Hulagu had an open route to Syria and moved against the other Muslim powers in the region. His army advanced towards Ayyubid-ruled Syria, capturing small local states en route. The sultan Al-Nasir Yusuf of the Ayyubids refused to show himself before Hulagu however, he had accepted Mongol supremacy two decades earlier. When Hulagu headed further west, the Armenians from Cilicia, the Seljuks from Rum and the Christian realms of Antioch and Tripoli submitted to Mongol authority, joining the Mongols in their assault against the Muslims. While some cities surrendered without resisting, others such as Mayafarriqin fought back their populations were massacred and the cities were sacked.

Meanwhile, in the northwestern portion of the empire, Batu's successor and younger brother Berke sent punitive expeditions to Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. Dissension began brewing between the northwestern and southwestern sections of the Mongol Empire, as Batu suspected that Hulagu's invasion of Western Asia would result in the elimination of Batu's own predominance there.


Dispute over succession

In the southern part of the empire, Möngke Khan himself led his army to complete the conquest of China. Military operations were generally successful, but prolonged, so the forces did not withdraw to the north as was customary when the weather turned hot. Disease ravaged the Mongol forces with bloody epidemics, and Möngke died there on August 11, 1259. This event began a new chapter of history for the Mongols, as again a decision needed to be made on a new Great Khan. Mongol armies across the empire withdrew from their campaigns to once again convene for a new kurultai.

Möngke's brother Hulagu broke off his successful military advance into Syria, withdrawing the bulk of his forces to Mughan and leaving only a small contingent under his general Kitbuqa. The opposing forces in the region, the Christian Crusaders and Muslim Mamluks, both recognizing that the Mongols were the greater threat, took advantage of the weakened state of the Mongol army and engaged in an unusual passive truce with each other. In 1260, the Mamluks advanced from Egypt, being allowed to camp and resupply near the Christian stronghold of Acre, and engaged Kitbuqa's forces just north of Galilee, at the Battle of Ain Jalut. The Mongols were defeated, and Kitbuqa executed. This pivotal battle marked the western limit for Mongol expansion, as the Mongols were never again able to make any serious military advances farther than Syria.

In a separate part of the empire, another brother of Hulagu and Möngke, Kublai, heard of the Great Khan's death at the Huai in China. Rather than returning to the capital though, he continued his advance into the Wuchang area of China, near the Yangtze River. Their younger brother Ariqboke took advantage of the absence of Hulagu and Kublai, and used his position at the capital to win the title of Great Khan for himself, with representatives of all the family branches proclaimed him as the leader at the kurultai in Karakorum. When Kublai learned of this, he summoned his own kurultai at Kaiping, where virtually all the senior princes and great noyans resident in North China and Manchuria supported his own candidacy over that of Ariqboke.

Civil war

Battles ensued between the armies of Kublai and those of his brother Ariqboke, which included forces still loyal to Möngke's previous administration. Kublai's army easily eliminated Ariqboke's supporters, and seized control of the civil administration in southern Mongolia. Further challenges took place from their cousins, the Chagataids. Kublai sent Abishka, a Chagataid prince loyal to him, to take charge of Chagatai's realm. But Ariqboke captured and then executed Abishka, having his own man Alghu crowned there instead. Kublai's new administration blockaded Ariqboke in Mongolia to cut off food supplies, causing a famine. Karakorum fell quickly to Kublai, but Ariqboke rallied and re-took the capital in 1261.

In the southwestern Ilkhanate, Hulagu was loyal to his brother Kublai, but clashes with their cousin Berke, the ruler of the Golden Horde in the northwestern part of the empire, began in 1262. The suspicious deaths of Jochid princes in Hulagu's service, unequal distribution of war booties and Hulagu's massacres of the Muslims increased the anger of Berke, who considered supporting a rebellion of the Georgian Kingdom against Hulagu's rule in 1259&ndash1260. Berke also forged an alliance with the Egyptian Mamluks against Hulagu, and supported Kublai's rival claimant, Ariqboke. Hulagu died on February 8, 1264. Berke sought to take advantage of this and invade Hulagu's realm, but died himself along the way, and a few months later, Alghu Khan of the Chagatai Khanate died as well. Kublai named Hulagu's son Abaqa as a new Ilkhan, and Abaqa sought foreign alliances, such as attempting to form a Franco-Mongol alliance with the Europeans against the Egyptian Mamluks. To lead the Golden Horde, Kublai nominated Batu's grandson Möngke Temür. Ariqboqe surrendered to Kublai at Shangdu on August 21, 1264.

In the south, after the fall of Xiangyang in 1273, the Mongols sought the final conquest of the Song Dynasty in South China. In 1271, Kublai renamed the new Mongol regime in China as the Yuan Dynasty, and sought to sinicize his image as Emperor of China in order to win the control of the millions of Chinese. Kublai moved his headquarters to Dadu, the genesis for what later became the modern city of Beijing, although his establishment of a capital there was a controversial move to many Mongols who accused him of being too closely tied to Chinese culture. But the Mongols were eventually successful in their campaigns against China, and the Chinese Song imperial family surrendered to the Yuan in 1276, making the Mongols the first non-Chinese people to conquer all of China. Kublai used his base to build a powerful empire, creating an academy, offices, trade ports and canals, and sponsoring arts and science. Mongol records list 20,166 public schools created during his reign.

Having achieved actual or nominal dominion over much of Eurasia, and having seen his successful conquest of China, Kublai was in a position to look beyond China. However, his costly invasions of Burma, Annam, Sakhalin and Champa secured only the vassal status of those countries. Mongol invasions of Japan (1274 and 1280) and Java (1293) failed.

Nogai and Konchi, the khan of the White Horde, established friendly relations with the Yuan Dynasty and the Ilkhanate. Political disagreement between contending branches of the family over the office of Great Khan continued, but the economic and commercial success of the Mongol Empire continued despite the squabbling.

Libretto & Source

The play which was the source for Puccini&rsquos Turandot, Schiller&rsquos adaptation of Carlo Gozzi&rsquos Turandot or Turandotte, has an even older genealogy (although there are several versions of the actual origin). According to some, it was based on a story by the Persian poet Nizemi, who had traced its origins back to very old Iranian or Arabian legends. It is NOT (as is often reported) from the collection we know as The Arabian Nights or the Thousand and One Nights. It may come from a Persian source called The Persian Tales or The Thousand and one Days, which was well-known in France.

How did a Persian fable come to be set in China? Very early, a people who called themselves Irani (Aryans) came from Babylonia and Assyria and settled in what is now Iran. Others called them Persians because early kings had their capital at Persis. When in the seventh century AD, they were conquered by Moslems, they changed their religion but not their culture. The new rulers took Baghdad (then in Persian territory) as their capital. The Turks conquered Persia in the eleventh century, but in the thirteenth century, it fell once more to Genghis Khan&rsquos Mongols. Then, near the end of the fourteenth century, it fell to Tamerlane. In Puccini&rsquos Turandot, the victim in Act I is the Prince of Persia.