|Class: Aves: Birds
Falconiformes: Birds of Prey
- 63 cm (20 - 25 in)
Arctic Europe, Asia, North America, Greenland, Iceland
impressive bird and the largest of the falcons, the gyrfalcon has a stockier
build than the peregrine. Plumage can be dark, white or gray. Most breed
north of the timberline and remain in the Arctic all year, but some populations
migrate south for the winter. When hunting, the gyrfalcon flies swiftly
near the ground. It can make rapid dives on prey, like the peregrine, but
this is less characteristic. Birds are its main prey, although it feeds
on some mammals, particularly in winter. Rock ptarmigan and willow grouse
make up the bulk of the gyrfalcon's diet, and their numbers can affect
its breeding rate. In years when these birds are abundant, gyrfalcons produce
large clutches, but in years of scarcity they lay only a couple of eggs
or do not breed at all. Gyrfalcons perform display flights when courting.
When the young hatch, both parents bring food to them.