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 1:51:35 PM (CST) Monday, July 02, 2012

Gyrfalcon Facts

Common Name(s): Asiatic gyrfalcon, black gyrfalcon, gray gyrfalcon, Greenland falcon, Iceland falcon, white gyrfalcon, Faucon gerfaut, Halcón gerifalte

Scientific Name: Falco rusticolus

Approximate Wing Span 48.4 in, 123 cm

Approximate Life Span: Up to 25 years

Natural Habitat: Tundra and winter habitat

Description & Habitat

The Gyrafalcon is known as the largest falcon in the world residing in the arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. This large, broad-chested bird of prey can be identified by a range of colors from white to dark gray and black. It also has long, pointed wings capable of diving at fast speeds to catch prey. Overall, the size of this bird lies between a hawk and a Peregrine Falcon. Taking all factors into account, the Gyrafalcon is one of the most intimating and powerful birds of prey in the world and is known as the official bird of Canada's Northwest Territories.

Food & Hunting

For the most part, the Gyrfalcon preys on ptarmigan, however it is known this bird of prey eats many other species including ducks, fulmars, jaegers, gulls, sparrows, redpolls, buntings, Short-eared owls and hawks. The Gyrfalcon also preys on mammals including hares and voles.

A male Gyrfalcon exhibits the four approaches listed below to pursue prey:

  1. Exhausting prey by chasing it over long distances
  2. Forcing prey out of cover by hovering and making short stoops
  3. Hovering low to the ground and surprising prey
  4. Strike prey, typically birds, at astonishing speeds to break breast bone driving it to the ground


Most Gyrfalcons refrain from building their own nests and usually exploit nests built by other species including the Golden Eagle and Raven. When away from their nest, these raptors are known to bathe in runoff water and also exhibit playful behavior full of aerial displays with rolls and dives.

As stated, Gyrfalcons usually eat small birds however, when rescued they usually are fed thawed frozen chicks and other small mammals particularly frozen rodents.


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