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Home > Science > Gyrfalcon - Arctic Wildlife Series

Gyrfalcon - Arctic Wildlife Series

This page tells about the world's largest falcon - the Gyrfalcon. It includes a video. It is part of our Arctic wildlife and birds of prey series.

Description

The Gyrfalcon is the world's largest falcon. It is the most prized falcon in the world for the sport of falconry and individuals can cost tens of thousands of dollars. In medieval times, only a king could possess a Gyrfalcon. Today, various falconry outfits across the northern hemisphere breed gyrfalcons and sell offspring for large sums of money. Sometimes, they are cross-bred with Peregrine Falcons.

The breathtaking Gyrfalcons comes in many color forms from pure white with pale black markings, to brown, to dark gray. Measuring up to 24 inches in length, the female is noticeably larger than the male. Gyrfalcons have large bodies, long wings, and a long tail.

Diet

The Gyrfalcon preys upon a wide range of birds such as grouse, ptarmigan, geese, ducks, and smaller birds. Occasionally, a Gyrfalcon may kill a hawk or owl. They will also take small mammals. Prey is usually overtaken and killed in mid-air.

Range and Habitat

The Gyrfalcon breeds above the Arctic Circle in North America, Europe, and Asia. Some may breed south of the Arctic Circle in Yukon and eastern Alaska. In winter, the Gyrfalcon migrates south of the Arctic Circle, and may occur as far south as New England, the Great Lakes states, the Dakotas, and northern parts of the Pacific northwest. Gyrfalcon sightings cause quite a stir among birders, who may travel great distances to catch a glimpse of the great hunters. Gyrfalcons often perch on telephone polls or fenceposts making observation easy.

The Gyrfalcon occupies arctic tundra, arctic meadows and wetlands, high mountains, and rocky cliffs.

Gyrfalcon

A Captive Gyrfalcon used for Falconry

 

Status

The Gyrfalcon is rare, though numbers are hard to estimate due to the inhospitable environments it breeds in.

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