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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Gyr Falcon

Hebrides bird sightings -  Gyr Falcon

Gyr Falcon (Gyr/Saker cross)

(Gerfalcon, Gyrfalcon, Falcon Hawk, Gyrkin)

Falco rusticolus


Gaelic: Gearr-sheabhag

Photography © Frank Stark
Leurbost - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
November 2004

"It was not difficult getting the photograph as the bird was reluctant to fly....As it was, I thought it was a Buzzard I was going to rescue. At least that is what the person who owned the shed said it was...I watched it catching a redwing the following day , absolutely lethal!

"...obviously a falconers bird...I emailed a photograph to a falconry centre on Skye and it was someone there who told me it was a Gyr/Saker cross."

Frank Stark


On the 21st May 2007 Terry Fountain reported that sadly a gyr corpse had been found on St Kilda, probably a Hybrid, and it had been a large bird when alive. Frank was curious as to if the bird was the one he had photographed above...

Terry wrote on seeing Frank's photograph of the gyr falcon:
"My initial reaction is, a captive saker ( bells and jesses). This bird also has the typical yellow legs and feet, unlike the Kilda falcon. ...The Kilda bird is less uniform in the wing area than this one. Brian Rabbitts has requested the corpse be sent to him for more checks."


Our Gyr Falcon photographs

Gyr / Saker Falcon
Gyr Falcon
Gyr Falcon

Gyr /Saker Falcon

Gyr Falcon
Grey morph

Gyr Falcon
White morph


  • 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

Grey above
Below white with dark streaks
Flight feathers distinctly paler than wing linings
Moustache mark (narrow)
Pale "eyebrow"
Grey tail has thin white bands

The immature bird similar to the adult, but has browner plumage

White plumage
Back and wings have black barring
White tail

The immature bird similar to the adult, but darker

Dark brown above
Underparts are heavily streaked
Flight feathers are paler than underwing
Dark tail

The immature bird similar to the adult


The Gyr Falcon is the largest of the falcons.

  Length Wingspan Weight
(ranges from hunting to fat weight)
Males 48 - 61cm
19 - 24 inches
110 - 130 cm
43 - 51 inches
850 -1300g
Females 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)



Frank's web site of his nature photography

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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