Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The impressive Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) is the largest of all falcons. Its body measures roughly 60 cm in length and its wingspan may be as wide as 130 cm. The male is usually about one third smaller than the female and the bird may weigh between 2 to 4.5 pounds. The plumage of the Gyrfalcon varies quite considerably from white to almost black. Throughout history, this impressive bird has been highly sought after for falconry. Because of its size and rarity, it was often reserved only for those of noble birth and during the middle ages only the king had the right to possess one. The Gyrfalcon continues to be a popular bird for falconry today though modern falconers may keep their ownership of such a bird secret to avoid theft. Falconers generally refer to the male Gyrfalcon as a ‘jerkin’.

All variations of the Gyrfalcon are similar in size and have long, broad-based, pointed wings and a short, dark, hooked beak. The adult-grey morph has grey upperparts and white underparts with dark streaks. The flight feathers are pale and there is a thin moustache mark. The tail is grey with thin white bands. The adult-white morph has white plumage and a white tail with black barring on the back and wings. The adult-dark morph has dark brown upperparts and a dark tail. The underparts are heavily streaked and the flight feathers are noticeably paler than the lining on the wings.

The Gyrfalcon is circumpolar in nature and tends to nest in the arctic regions of North America, Europe, Asia, Iceland and Greenland, though they may be found elsewhere in the world when not breeding. They can live in either open, treeless plains or in swampy, forested areas and can be found near cliffs along shorelines, rivers or even in mountains. They usually nest in depressions on a protected ledge or cliff face and may even make use of an abandoned nest or a suitable man-made structure from time to time. When they nest, they generally lay 2 to 6 eggs that may take 34 to 36 days to hatch. Interestingly, they nest in arctic regions and often begin to lay their eggs in below-zero temperatures. Gyrfalcon‘s take about 2 to 3 years to become sexually mature. They generally feed on ptarmigan, grouse, seabirds, waterfowl, lemmings and ground squirrels, catching their prey either in the air or on the ground.

Spectacular Birding on the Isle of Mull

August 1, 2008 by  
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The beautiful Isle of Mull is Scotland’s fourth largest island and a popular tourist destination for a number of reasons, one of them being that it offers superb bird watching opportunities in a wide variety of habitats. The island’s mountains, moorlands, sea lochs, hill lochans, damp boggy marshes and wide sandy beaches are home to many local species of birds, as well as a host of migrants at different times of the year.

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The National Birds of Prey Center in Gloucestershire

June 25, 2008 by  
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The National Birds of Prey Center, located near Newent in Gloucestershire, is one of Britain’s premiere attractions and one of the top birds of prey centers in the United Kingdom. It is home to roughly 170 different birds of prey, including 22 species of eagles, falcons and hawks – a real treat for any bird lover or falconer.

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Falconry Part 1: Origins and Applications

October 19, 2007 by  
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Falconry is a sport that involves the training of birds of prey to hunt game for their trainers. Although not all birds of prey are falcons, the previous use of the term “hawker” when hawks were used for hunting has come to commonly be used as a term describing traveling traders. For this reason the term “hawker” has fallen into disuse, with “falconer” and “falconry” applying to the sport irrespective of the species of bird used.

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