• Gyrfalcon

    Common NameGyrfalcon
    Scientific NameFalco rusticolus
    Type of ReportRare Species
    Date of Observation01/01/2017
    Number Observed1
    Reporting Observer's NameC.J. Frankiewicz
    Mailing Address1173 E Clarendon Road
    North Clarendon, VT 05759
    United States
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    Date Completed01/11/2017
    Names & Emails of Other Contributing Observers

    Kathleen Pellegrino Guinness
    133 Broughton Ave.
    Poultney, VT 05764

    Latitude of Observation0
    Longitude of Observation0
    Place NameGreenbush Road
    Time of Day02:30 PM
    Length of Time Observed20 minutes
    Maximum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)300
    Minimum Estimated Distance from Bird (in feet)blank
    Noteworthy Weather Conditions

    Cloudy. light in relation to observer's position: Other side of Gyrfalcon (backlit)

    Optical Equipment Used for Observation

    Leupold Pinnacles 10x42 Binoculars (cjf); Eagle Optics Denali 8 x 32 Binoculars (KPG); Bausch & Lomb Discover 15-60x Scope (cjf)

    Observer’s Previous Acquaintance With This or Similar Species

    CJF has seen three Gyrfalcons, all in Vermont. One was seen at distance with Rhoda Horne somewhere in Grand Isle County on January 31, 1987. The second was seen near end of Little Chicago Road in Ferrisburg with Dwight Cargill on February 16, 1992. The third flew low and close to CJF over a lot of very agitated Snow Geese on Route 23 in Weybridge on March 21, 1992. CJF submitted a Rare Bird Verification Report for the last sighting and the Vermont Bird Records Committee accepted the report at its meeting on November 7, 1992. This sighting was KPG’s first of a Gyrfalcon. Both of us have seen many PEFAs. We monitor PEFA nesting at Bird Mountain and assist at other sites.

    Description of Habitat

    Small open grass field on east side of Greenbush Road with some big trees further down; longer cut corn field on west side where turkeys were.

    Behaviors Observed

    Mostly from eBird report by cjf:

    Chased by Peregrine Falcon. Perched facing us in top of a big pine where heavily streaked breast was seen. Peregrine flushed it and Gyrfalcon had noticeably (a) wider wingspan, but not a lot wider, and (b) two-toned underwing where leading portion out to just past bend in the wing was darker than trailing portion. And (c) breast and belly and perhaps legs and undertail coverts were just as dark forming quite a wide and flat V across the underside of the bird. Have to thank Frank Rounds for his ID on eBird Alert. I was so taken with the two-toned V underwing and the chase that I did not immediately ascertain the Gyrfalcon's pointed wings which Sibley's says and shows are "blunted". (In fact, after consulting my ancient Peterson's immediately after the encounter, my thought was that it was an immature Red-shouldered Hawk based on the flat dark V across the underside of the bird and its larger than PEFA size.) And whoda thunk a Peregrine would be chasing the larger (and rarely seen) Gyrfalcon? It's not seen every winter. My fourth Gyrfalcon ever; Kathleen Guinness' first. I thought Frank Rounds was looking at the turkeys on the opposite side of the road and unfortunately we did not stop to compare notes.

    Description of Vocalizations


    Verbal Narrative & Description of Observation


    Relative Size & Shape

    Noticeably larger than the PEFA chasing it. Saw them right together.


    No skull cap on Gyrfalcon


    Pointed wings longer and less pointed than the PEFA’s. Underwing was two-toned with darker leading portion described above.

    Breast, Belly, Flanks, Under Tail Coverts

    Heavily streaked breast, belly, and undertail coverts.


    Long tail. Seemed light in contrast to darker leading edge of underwing described above.

    IMPORTANT: What similar species were eliminated when making the identification and how was this bird different?

    Larger than PEFA chasing it. Skull cap seen on PEFA; not on Gyrfalcon. PEFA eliminated because Gyrfalcon was noticeably bigger and lacked skullcap. Red-shouldered eliminated because heavily barred tail not evident; wing tips of Gyrfalcon not as blunt as on a buteo.

    Other Notes & Comments

    Age not determined. Gray phase based on V underwing.

    Frank Rounds should get first credit.

    This report was written from eBird notes (included above) written on January 3, 2017 and from memory. Too tired on the evening of January 1; Rutland CBC was January 2.

    This report was written from notes taken:Written from Memory

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