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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Gyrfalcon

Falco rusticolus

  • Family: Falcons – Falconidae
  • Appearance: A large, stocky falcon, almost as large as a Goshawk. Looks strong and clearly falcon-like in flight. Wide wings with more rounded wingtips than other falcons. Facial markings more indistinct than on Peregrine Falcon with moustache patches less prominent due to lack of white cheek markings.
  • Size: Length 53–63 cm, wingspan 109–134 cm, weight 1.3–1.7 kg.
  • Nest: On crags in old Raven or Rough-legged Buzzard nests.
  • Breeding: 3–5 eggs laid in early April, incubated by female for 29 days. Young able to fly within 35–42 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds in arctic fell regions of northernmost Finnish Lapland. Finnish population estimated at 30 pairs.
  • Migration: Some birds remain in their breeding areas for the winter, but others (mainly younger birds) move further south, and may even migrate to countries south of the Baltic Sea.
  • Diet: Birds, especially grouse and Ptarmigan, sometimes also small rodents.
  • Calls: Alarm call a harsh “kra-kra-kra”.
  • Endangerment: Critically endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Adult Gyrfalcons look like Peregrine Falcons but are larger and have slightly longer tails and broader wings. They also fly with noticeably slower wing-beats than Peregrine Falcons. Their backs are clearly mottled, often brownish in colouring and their underparts are spotted (with no clear lateral stripes). Their dark moustache-like markings are not as clear as on Peregrine Falcons, and they are generally paler in colouring. Young birds have brown upper parts and more distinct moustaches than adults. Gyrfalcons’ legs are yellow (mature birds) or yellowish grey (juveniles), their beaks are bluish with darker tip and a yellowish base and yellow cere (cere blue-green on young birds). Irises are very dark on adults and more brownish on juveniles.

Like Peregrine Falcons, Gyrfalcons hunt their prey by diving from above. Falconers say that Gyrfalcons can reach even higher speeds than Peregrines when diving. They strike attack with such lethal force that their prey will instantly fall to the ground. While hunting they may hover briefly, but more often they patrol over their hunting grounds at a height of a few tens of metres, or sit for long periods on a high vantage point.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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