Thursday, January 5, 2012


Well, this was a nice start to the 2012 Bird List!  A white Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) on top of some old strip-mining overburden piles (in a way, I hope these piles aren't reclaimed and levelled off into rolling hills - this will be the only time anyone ever hears me say such a thing.)

See it, way up there?

Warning:  fuzz-zee photo.  I did not have a tripod but I also wouldn't have had time to set-up.  We didn't know how long this bird would perch.  I think this is a juvenile white-morph, but the vote is still a little bit out among my fellow birder Guy Wapple (and fellow-sighter of this bird) and some of his pals. 

The Gyr is the largest falcon; a stocky bird, about 22 inches in length, with a wing-span of 47".  It is a very strong, swift flier, with slow wing-beats.  

Falcons use their large powerful feet to knock prey out of the air and/or otherwise disable.  Falcons have notched beaks (you can sort of see that in this pic) which enables them to sever or crush the neck vertebrae of their prey. 

Gyrs are Arctic breeders, nesting on scrapes on the ground.  Some come south in winter, as you can see.  In summer, they feed mostly on ptarmigans.  Down here, this one will be looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasants, and ducks.  We have many, many ducks on the open water at Boundary.  It won't go hungry.

This is only my third Gyrfalcon (pronounced GER-falcon)  I posted about a juvy grey-morph here

Info on Gyrfalcons:


  1. Wow!! That would be a lifer. I'm hoping to catch my first snowy owl as their is a major irription going on in MN. this winter. As soon as Mrs. T is up to it, I'm hoping to hit the back country roads. It's still a long shot but you never know... :)

  2. I hope you find a snowy owl, Mr. T. And I hope Mrs. T is recovering well.

  3. A nice start indeed! Congratulations!