Two white gyrfalcons that were seized from smugglers at Moscow’s Domodedovo international airport were handed over to the Kremlin on Wednesday to be used in official ceremonies.
The two birds were seized by airport customs officers in 2010 as smugglers attempted to take the rare birds to the United Arab Emirates.
“The white gyrfalcon is a unique bird that historically has always symbolized Russian statehood,” Russian Environment and Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi said during the handover to the Kremlin commandant’s office.
The office said the birds will be used to scare off crows, as well as in equestrian and foot guard mounting parades and other ceremonies.
“We have a variety of birds working for us; all of them are on the Kremlin’s payroll,” commandant Sergei Khlebnikov deadpanned, adding that the number of gray crows in the Kremlin has declined recently while the population of songbirds has grown.
There are currently about a dozen birds of prey in service with the Kremlin, mainly goshawks, as well as one eagle owl, he said.