Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Gyr Falcon
Juvenile Gyr Falcon (Grey morph)
(Gerfalcon, Gyrfalcon, Falcon Hawk, Gyrkin)
Photography © Andy L
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
"...heres something a bit special it has to be confirmed and i have left pics with martin scott he is on the case but it appears to be a gyr falcon i took today on the outskirts of stornoway .It had just killed a young gull and was seen to be being mobbed by gulls and crows but due to its large size didn't seem at all bothered..."
"Just to say that the falcon at Sandwick is a juvenile and not an adult. This is told by the plumage fringing and the grey colour of the cere (bill base) and feet.
Jury is still out if it is the real deal. If it is it will be (one of) the first modern day grey morph birds in British history!"
Martin, 13th November, 2007
RSPB Conservation Officer (Western Isles)
"Love the photo. Probably Gyr/Saker, but difficult to rule out Gyr/Pere.
Pure Gyr, in my opinion, ruled out by wing tip/tail proportions. Not necessarily juvenile, as Gyrs can show blue ceres and feet for at least a couple of years before going yellow (some captive birds, however, do go yellow rather more quickly as a result of a diet of day old chicks). It could almost be pure Saker (also blue ceres and feet when comparatively young), but eye looks a bit big and forward and the forehead looks a bit flat, and it doesn't look a quite warm enough brown, but ... Too brown, perhaps, for grey morph Gyr? It also just isn't bulky enough.
Over the years I have seen Gyr/Saker, Gyr/Pere, Gyr/Lanner, Gyr/Barbary, Gyr/Prairie and photos of Gyr/Merlin, though that last not in the flesh. I saw a Gyr/Pere only a few weeks ago that I could not tell wasn't a Gyr/Saker. ...Good luck"
"Grey morphs are surprisingly rare accounting for only 11 of just over 150 records published in BBRC reports - part of status summary in 2007 report.
Our Gyr Falcon photographs
- Gyr Falcon
- Falco rusticolus
- 3 UK records a year, only 126 records 1958 - 2004 BTO
- WI: Very rare visitor (five or less records) TBC
- Breeds: Arctic & sub-Arctic coasts & islands. Europe, North America, Asia, Greenland to North Siberia, North Canada,
- Winter: South to North Europe, Central Asia, North USA
- Habitat: Tundra, open forest, coastal, mountains
- Diet: medium-sized birds (but will take on a swan!) some mammals, (usually as flies low across ground)
- Largest, heaviest falcon species. Very strong. Longer-tailed bird & pointed wings are stockier & broader Peregrine's. Coloration ranges from almost all-white to very dark birds.
The g is pronounced like the j in jar.
The male gyrfalcon is sometimes called a gyrkin.
The Gyr Falcon used to be divided into several different subspecies. Nowadays the variations in the falcon are classified according to adult colour phase.
|Adult: Grey morph
||Adult White morph
||Adult Dark morph
Below white with dark streaks
Flight feathers distinctly paler than wing linings
Moustache mark (narrow)
Grey tail has thin white bands
The immature bird similar to the adult, but has browner plumage
Back and wings have black barring
The immature bird similar to the adult, but darker
|Dark brown above
Underparts are heavily streaked
Flight feathers are paler than underwing
The immature bird similar to the adult
The Gyr Falcon is the largest of the falcons.
(ranges from hunting to fat weight)
||48 - 61cm
19 - 24 inches
|110 - 130 cm
43 - 51 inches
||51 - 65cm
20 to 26 inches
|124 - 160cm
49 - 64 inches
|1400 - 2000g
A Gyr Falcon has long broad wings, long stout toes, a long square tail, and massive pectoral muscles which make it a very strong and powerful hunting bird.
Traditionally the Gyr falcon was the most valuable hunting bird. It was considered a great honour to hunt with it, and only the very wealthy, monarchs or renowned military commanders did so.
The Gyr Falcon eats birds and mammals. Bird prey can be as large as a goose, and include gulls, crows or even other raptors. Mammals can be the 3x the weight of the gyr falcon itself.
The Latin for a circle is gyrus. Unlike other falcons the Gyr Falcon circles as it searches for it's prey. Usually it's hunting flight is horizontal, prey killed on the ground.
The only predator of Gyr Falcons are Golden Eagles.
Gyr Falcon records in the Western Isles
Very rare visitor (five or less records) TBC
The chart below shows how abundant the Gyr Falcon is during a month or when you are more likely to see it.
(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section