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Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus


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Gyrfalcon, grey adult
credit: ”lafur Larsen/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Falconidae, Falcons view all from this family

Description ADULT PALE MORPH Has mainly white head and underparts; upperparts including upper tail are white with variable amounts of dark barring, and black-tipped primaries. ADULT GRAY MORPH Has gray head and upperparts; underparts are pale with dark barring. ADULT DARK MORPH Has dark brown head and upperparts, with paler but heavily streaked underparts. JUVENILE Similar to adult counterparts.

Dimensions Length: 22" (56 cm); Wngspn: 4' (1.2 m)

Habitat Widespread, but scarce Arctic breeder. Most birds move south in winter but extent of movement is unpredictable and many remain in snowbound areas.

Observation Tips Seen mainly by chance unless you visit the Arctic tundra in summer.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountains, Western Canada, Northwest, New England, Plains, Great Lakes, Alaska, Eastern Canada

Voice Mostly silent.

Discussion Huge and impressive falcon. Buteo-sized, but note its typical falcon shape with long, pointed wings and long tail. White morph (the real prize for birders) is unmistakable. Dark and gray morphs could perhaps be confused with Peregrine, but note Gyrfalcon's much larger size, more bulky body, and broader, less pointed wings. Hunts up to goose-sized prey, and nests, roosts, and often perches on rocky outcrops. Legs and cere are yellow in all birds. Sexes are similar, although female is appreciably larger than male.