All about Gyrfalcons

Scientific Name: Falco rusticolus, which translates to a countryside-dwelling falcon. 

Description: Gyrfalcons are the largest species of falcon in the world. They range in size from 800g to 2100g with a wingspan of up to 48.4 inches. Their feathers are white with black, gray or brown spotting. The amount of white in the feathers will vary from bird to bird. The wing feathers also vary from white to gray to black to brown. Gyrfalcons have long wings that come to a point. When the wings are closed, the tips will cross over just over the tail. Their tail feathers are also fairly long.

Behavior: Gyrfalcons appear to mate for life, though they may only join up with their mate during breeding season. Males will perform aerial mating displays, diving and rolling about in the sky. These large falcons prefer to nest on cliffside ledges. They will scrape out a hollow depression using their talons, but often do not line the nest with anything save for soil and maybe an outline of dead sticks. They will lay 1-5 eggs once during the breeding season and care for the chicks for about 2 months after they hatch. Gyrfalcons are highly territorial and will vocalize often to maintain their territory. They are the fastest birds in level flight- reaching up to 60 miles per hour. In a stoop (a sharp dive), they can reach 130mph! 

Diet: Gyrfalcons, like most falcons, hunt mainly other birds. Most often, these large falcons hunt ptarmigan (a subfamily of the grouse). 

Conservation: Gyrfalcons are considered a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. They do still face a few obstacles. Gyrfalcons are often seen in the pet trade and have been subject to poaching due to this. The most imposing threat to Gyrfalcons currently is climate change. Gyrfalcons thrive in the tundra and taiga of North America. This habitat has been heavily affected by climate change, causing changes in the landscape and forcing prey to move to different areas.

How you can help: Helping to fight climate change helps numerous species, not just the Gyrfalcons. These changes help save our planet- but they can also help save you money! Using clean, renewable energy practices help us to move away from the use of fossil fuels. Solar power and wind power are great alternatives! Improving the insulation in buildings also helps them reduce the energy needed to heat and cool the area. 

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