Gyrfalcons are the largest among the family of falcons. They are ranked third fastest in the bird kingdom after the Peregrine falcon and the Golden Eagle. These birds were considered royal from the medieval age and a has been a pet to the ones in power. Scientifically termed as Falco-rusticolus appears in pure white to dark brown shade, its reign spreads across the Arctic, North America, Europe, and Asia. These majestic birds of prey are commonly found in winter dominated countries (higher altitudes) since they are less font of Mediterranean climate.
Out of all, the white Gyrfalcon is the most alluring one having a snow-white appearance with grey bars on wings and tail. Grey morph is the most common plumage found among the Gyrfalcons across the regions. Gyrfalcons in pure white plumage are confined to the Arctic based on the geography. Measuring 20 -24 inches in length and weighing up to 1.3 kg, these magnificent birds can dive steeply from high altitudes. During the dive, these birds can descent at a velocity of 130 mph with great diving and combat skills adjusting their wings.
Compared to other falcons on a long-distance flight, endurance flying and flapping powered flight are the specialties of the Gyrfalcon with a velocity measuring close to about 55 mph. When it comes to level flying, with long pointed wings intact, Gyrfalcon can be even faster than the Peregrine falcon. Level flying is when these amazing birds skim across steady and clean air with an accelerated wing flapping. When in flight, on hunting, just before hooking, a bit of extra energy is forced to boost velocity and thereby an impulse to have a firm grip on the prey.
For hunting, they require open spaces. Grasslands, valleys and similar landscapes are favorite patrol grounds preferred, swooping for the kill. Having a very sharp vision, these raptors are expert bird hunters. Hoovering around the higher altitudes they wait for the perfect moment to swoop and strike the targeted smaller bird. The claws pierce the prey’s body on gripping and slam it straight to the ground. Apart from birds, they hunt on reptiles, fishes, and rodents. Where, in the Arctic, Ptarmigans are the favorite prey by these swift skimmers.
The nests are usually set up on the high trees and on the edge of cliffs in winter dominated Nations. The breeding phase normally ranges from April to July. The dense nests are made out of thick branches that could withstand strong winds. In a clutch, three to four eggs are a common sight. The males are comparatively smaller by three to four pounds than the female. The male hunts in the vicinity of the nest and usually target smaller birds during the time of breeding. Up to five pounds of the flesh is the normal feeding scale of the Gyrfalcon family during breeding.
Females stores the leftover after the feast and prefer feeding herself and the family on the leftover later sometime. During the winter, when there is scarcity, it has been noticed these birds feeding on the corpse left behind. For a hatchling to take its first flight and the feathers to support the body weight it takes 40 – 50 days. It takes three years for the hatchling to attain maturity and build a nest of its own. There have been scenarios where the Gyrfalcon had been found raising a family in the nests built by higher raptors. The life expectancy of Gyrfalcons is been recorded to be 12 – 13 years.
Gyrfalcon – Falconry
Falconry being a sport for thousands of years, the Gyrfalcons are active members of the group. Falconry is training raptors that are caught or imprinting on a hatchling. It takes 60 days for a raptor to be well trained by an experienced trainer. For some, falconry is a sport and for others, it is a source of earning or in another way a source of living. In certain Nations, Gyrfalcons are the saviors of farmers by protecting the crops and farmlands from crop eater birds and rodents.
The trainers along with the falcon patrols the farmlands chasing and hunting the crop hunters. Grain stores and warehouses protection from crows and sparrows have also been looked upon with falconry as an alternative. In several Nations, the Gyrfalcons for sale are available in the market where one should have a license to own this bird. The government runs inspection on the bird owners to ensure that the birds are well raised and maintained.
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