Animals

White Gyrfalcon Facts

Read this article for white gyrfalcon facts.
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The white gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) is a majestic species of the family Falconidae. They are known for being very large and stunning with their white feathers. Gyrfalcons come in different colors: black, gray, dark brown, and pure white. Whilst these gyrfalcons come with different colored feathers, they are pretty much the same, and are equally as powerful as each other.

Luckily, gyrfalcons have a conservation status of Least Concern, meaning they should not become extinct any time soon. However, a big threat to them is the destroying of their Arctic habitat by climate change. It would be sad to see these beautiful birds evicted from their homes because of climate change, or their populations reduced. We should do what we can to reduce climate change and learn about the great white gyrfalcon to protect them.

If you are a budding bird lover, take a look at our articles about the falcon and the prairie falcon too.

White Gyrfalcon

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Ptarmigan, birds, and hares

What do they eat?

Carnivore

Average litter size?

2-4

How much do they weigh?

28 - 74 oz (805-2100 g)

How long are they?

1.5-2.1 ft (48-65 cm)

How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

White with black markings

Skin Type

Feathers

What are their main threats?

Climate change

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Arctic tundra

Locations

Arctic regions, northern Canada, and Alaska

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Aves

Scientific Name

Falco rusticolus

Family

Falconidae

Genus

Falco

White Gyrfalcon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a white gyrfalcon?

It is a species of falcon.

What class of animal does a white gyrfalcon belong to?

White gyrfalcons are a type of bird from the Aves classification.

How many white gyrfalcons are there in the world?

There is no information on specifically how many white gyrfalcons there are in the world. However, it is estimated that the global population of gyrfalcons is 20,000-49,999 mature birds. The European population estimate is that there are 1,100-1,900 pairs of gyrfalcons in Europe. Some more research found that there are about 70,000 individual birds of breeding age.

Where does a white gyrfalcon live?

This bird lives in the Arctic tundra and alpine tundra, mostly in Alaska and northern California.

What is a white gyrfalcon's habitat?

Their habitat is rocky sea coasts, barren lands with rocky areas, offshore islands, and mountainous terrain over5,000 ft ( 1524 m) high. They sometimes go into the edges of forests or small trees near the arctic beaches and dunes. In winter, they migrate from the high arctic to the south, even to the United States.

Who do white gyrfalcons live with?

White gyrfalcons normally live alone or in pairs, with their mate. Their mate is their lifelong partner but they only interact during the breeding season. Parents stay with their young until they reach three to four months when they become independent.

How long does a white gyrfalcon live?

This bird can live up to 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

White gyrfalcons reproduce sexually. After a male and female pair have courted and mated, the female produces eggs. On average, female falcons produce two to four eggs each breeding season. The pair nests on a cliff face and do not build their own nest but stay in the nest of other birds such as golden eagles and ravens.

The incubation period of eggs is around 35 days. Young nestlings leave the nest when they reach eight weeks old. Adult gyrfalcons start to reproduce around two to three years of age.

What is their conservation status?

Gyrfalcons have a conservation status of Least Concern because there is a large enough population and they are widely dispersed.

White Gyrfalcon Fun Facts

What do white gyrfalcons look like?

As the largest falcon in the world, you can expect a gyrfalcon to be pretty big! White gyrfalcons are also the only predominately white falcon species. Although they are mostly white, they may have dark brown or gray spotting on their plumage.

White gyrfalcons have stunning white feathers, they even sometimes have dark brown feathers too!

How cute are they?

They can be quite cute when they are young. However, rather than cute, falcons are more fierce, powerful, and majestic birds because of their large size and predatory ways.

How do they communicate?

White gyrfalcons are mostly silent birds but they can be heard making noises when they are close to their nest or they are excited. They can make aggressive calls when intruders come near their territory. Males are also said to dance in the sky and perform aerial displays complete with rolls and dives. This is in order to attract a female mate.

How big is a white gyrfalcon?

Gyrfalcons are the largest of all falcons, and white gyrfalcons are no exception. These birds have a length range of 1.5-2.1 ft (48-65 cm) from the tip of their beak to the end of their tail. Their wingspans are quite massive, with a range of 3.6 -5.2 ft (10-160 cm).

How fast can a white gyrfalcon fly?

White gyrfalcons can fly very fast. Their top speed is 130 mph (210 kmph), way faster than cars speeding down the highway. They can overtake most birds whilst in flight, particularly other birds who are their prey.

How much does a white gyrfalcon weigh?

Normally, gyrfalcons weigh a range of 28 - 74 oz (805-2100 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Females are called a falcon, or gyrfalcon, whereas a male is sometimes called a tiercel.

What would you call a baby white gyrfalcon?

Just like other birds, you can call a baby white gyrfalcon a chick. The scientific name of a baby is an eyas or eyass.

What do they eat?

White gyrfalcons are carnivorous birds. Their diet consists of mostly willow ptarmigan and rock ptarmigan, which are birds in the grouse family and a similar species to pheasants. They also hunt other birds including shorebirds, seabirds, songbirds, and waterfowl. They have also been known to hunt a long list of other birds including owls, other falcons, hawks, ravens, gulls, and the list goes on!

They do not only prey on birds, mammals like hares, ground squirrels, young arctic fox, and lemmings are also part of their diet. They find their prey whilst perched high in the rocks or even during flight. They capture most of their prey by swiping it from the sky and striking it to the ground.  The impact on the ground breaks their preys' bones allowing for gyrfalcons to feast.

Gyrfalcons are very stealthy and sly and are also known to fly slowly behind their prey and sneak up on them whilst they fly or run on the ground. They can even chase their prey over long distances, eventually tiring them out.

Among these North American birds, males usually do all the hunting, but females also hunt and catch food for their young during the breeding season, storing the food in bushes near the nest.

Are they dangerous?

Gyrfalcons can be very dangerous to their prey, and due to their power, speed, and stealth, victims have very little chance of surviving. There is not much evidence however of humans being victim to gyrfalcons.

Would they make a good pet?

They are large North American birds that require the ability to fly long distances. It is not advised to keep them as a pet. However, historically, people have kept these birds for hunting and falconry.

Did you know...

Gyrfalcon is pronounced 'JER-falcon'.

When chicks cannot finish their food, their mothers store the leftovers to eat later.

During the breeding season, a family of gyrfalcons needs 2-3 lb (900-1360 g) of food a day, that is about 2-3 ptarmigans every single day. That is a lot of prey!

A male gyrfalcon is called a gyrkin in the sport of falconry.

Adult males are smaller than females.

A group of gyrfalcons has many names including eyrie, bazaar, ringing, and tower.

The oldest recorded gyrfalcon was a banded male who reached 15 years old.

Peregrine falcons are making their way up north due to climate change and competing with gyrfalcons for their habitat. Gyrfalcons are smaller than peregrine falcons and they are much less aggressive. They cannot compete with the peregrine falcons and there are concerns that they may become extinct from their former range within the next decade.

Did you know that 10% of all gyrfalcons are white?

Falcons are not immune to mosquitos that swarm in during summer. Due to global temperatures warming, scientists worry that some diseases can be spread from other areas by mosquitos moving north.

If young falcons land on the ground they can become the victim of big land animals.

What is a gyrfalcon best known for?

Gyrfalcons are known to be the biggest falcon in the world.

Do white gyrfalcons migrate?

Gyrfalcons are not known to be migratory birds. They mostly stay in the north. Sometimes they can go further south, but this is not very common. Younger gyrfalcons are more likely to move south.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the great green macaw or the pileated woodpecker.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our peregrine falcon coloring pages.

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