The Gyrfalcon is the
largest falcon in the world. Generally a bird of the Arctic, a few may
wander south in the winter, but it is a rare visitor to South Dakota.
Three color phases can be found, a gray morph (the most common in North America
and pictured to the right), a dark morph, and a stunning white morph.
Links to photos of immature gray morph birds can be found at the bottom, along
with additional mature bird photos.
Habitat: Uses open tundra
with nearby cliffs for nesting during the breeding season. Those that
migrate south in the winter are usually found along the coast, or in very open
Diet: Primarily feeds on birds,
especially ptarmigans in its normal Arctic range. Coastal Gyrfalcons may
feed heavily on ducks, geese, and gulls. They will also take small mammals
given the opportunity.
Behavior: Hunts from either a perch or while in
flight. Prey is often taken by surprise as the Gyrfalcon approaches
close to ground. Very strong fliers, Gyrfalcons may also pursue
prey over very long distances.
Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota
Song: Usually silent. Will make a loud keya-keya
call near the nest.
Migration: Many birds are
permanent residents throughout its range. Those at the northernmost
extreme of the breeding range may move south in the winter. A very few may
move south into the United States in the winter, with immature birds the most
likely to wander the furthest.
Status: Generally stable in North America. It has
declined in parts of it's Eurasian Arctic habitat, possibly due in part to the
taking of young for falconry.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Gyrfalcon"
Photo Information: February 16th, 2003 -- 8 miles north
of I-90 on Highway 83 -- Terry L. Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Gyrfalcon photos.