• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote® - Winter’s Regal Visitor

Air Date: Week of December 17, 2010

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Gyrfalcon. (Photo: Tom Munson©)

The large, majestic Gyrfalcon is no snowbird. This falcon lives and breeds in the Arctic tundra and sometimes heads to the northern states of North America for the winter. Mary McCann has this BirdNote®.

Transcript

CURWOOD: This time of year, some folks flock to warmer climes, earning them the nickname “snowbirds.” But there are some birds of the feathered kind, who like cold winters and Mary McCann tells us about one in this week’s BirdNote.


Gyrfalcon. (Photo: George Vlahakis©)

[SOUND OF THE WINTER WIND]

MCCANN: Winter sends wondrous birds down from the Arctic. Unrivalled among these visitors is the majestic Gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcons are among the largest falcons in the world, with the female—the larger of the sexes—outranking even a Red-tailed Hawk in size.

[GYRFALCON CALLS]

MCCANN: With a name that derives from an Old Norse word for “spear,” the Gyrfalcon was a medieval falconer’s prize, reserved for royalty. Kublai Khan, it is said, kept two hundred. When hunting, the Gyrfalcon flies swiftly, and low, over the ground, hugging contours to conceal its attack. A Gyr’ is capable of overtaking even the fastest waterfowl, some of which can fly 60 miles an hour.


Gyrfalcon. (Photo: Tom Munson ©)

[SOUND OF THE GREATER SCAUP IN FLIGHT]

MCCANN: On its summer range on the tundra, the falcon feeds mostly on ptarmigan. But in winter, it is opportunistic, chasing down shorebirds, ducks, partridges, and even small rodents. By December, a small number of Gyrfalcons have flown south to the northern states, where they will spend the winter in areas of open expanse, such as farmlands or coastal areas.

[GYRFALCON CALLS]

MCCANN: For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

CURWOOD: To see photos of the Gyrfalcon, fly on over to our website L-O-E dot org.

 

Links

Call of the Gyrfalcon and Greater Scaup provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of Gyrfalcon recorded by A.L. Priori. Call of Greater Scaup in flight recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.

BirdNote® - Majestic Gyrfalcon – Winter’s Regal Visitor was written by Bob Sundstrom.

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.