Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Dfaulder/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon
Falco rusticolus
Hawk-like Birds | Family: Falcons, Falconidae

An estimated 25% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.

Listen:
 

Overview

It is a memorable occasion when a Gyrfalcon is sighted on a coastal salt marsh or over open country inland. In the Far North it feeds mainly on ptarmigans, but during the summer months it also takes shorebirds, eiders, and gulls, and makes frequent raids on the great colonies of murres and Dovekies.  The Gyrfalcon is also the official bird of the Northwest Territories.

Description

22" (56 cm). W. 4' (1.2 m). The largest of the true falcons. 3 color phases occur: blackish, white, and gray-brown. All phases are more uniformly colored than Peregrine Falcon, which has bold dark "mustaches" and hood and a proportionately larger head.

Voice

A chattering scream, kak-kak-kak-kak.

Nesting

Usually 4 whitish or buff eggs, finely spotted with reddish brown, on a rock ledge or in the abandoned nest of a Rough-legged Hawk or Common Raven.

Habitat

Arctic tundra and rocky cliffs, usually near water. Each winter a few move south to coastal beaches and marshes.

Range/Migration

Breeds on tundra of northern Alaska and northern Canada. Winters in breeding range and also rarely but regularly south to northern tier of states, especially along coasts.