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Gyrfalcon: Earth’s largest falcon

A Gyrfalcon hunts from atop a post in Alberta. Photo by Eduardo Matuod
A Gyrfalcon hunts from atop a post in Alberta. Photo by Eduardo Matuod

Readers of BirdWatching in early 2013 voted Gyrfalcon the fourth most-wanted bird in the United States and Canada. Here’s what you need to know to add it to your life list.

Description, range, and population

DESCRIPTION. Large raptor with long tail. Yellow eye ring, cere, and legs on adults. Plumage varies from white to gray to dark brown. Gray morph most common in southern Canada and northern United States. (ABA Code 2)

RANGE. Breeds in arctic regions from Alaska to Greenland, Scandinavia to Sibera. Winters in Canada and the northern United States and across a wide swath of central Eurasia.

POPULATION. Estimated world population 7,880-10,900 pairs (2005).

View a real-time eBird map

Read about Gyrfalcons that wander south every winter.

Viewing locations

ALASKA: Denali National Park, Mendenhall Wetlands, Anchorage, Bristol Bay, Yukon Delta NWR, Nome, Dalton Hwy., Barrow, Gambel Island


ALBERTA: Bow River downstream of Calgary, William Hawrelak Park

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Roberts Bank, Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, and Brunswick Point, Delta

SOUTH DAKOTA: Fort Pierre National Grassland

MINNESOTA: Duluth harbor

WISCONSIN: Chequamegon Bay

MICHIGAN: Sault St. Marie power plant


Rockjumper Birding Tours: Canadian Arctic — Northwest Passage, August 14-25, 2013

Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris: Alaska’s Arctic: Northern Lights, Polar Bears and Arctic Wildlife, September 2-11, 2013; Alaska from North to South, June 12-July 1, 2014


Bird Treks: Adak Island, Alaska, September 8-15 and 15-22, 2013; Churchill, Manitoba, on the shore of Hudson Bay, October 20-26, November 4-10, and November 12-18, 2013

Wild Planet Nature Tours: Winter Raptor Workshop, Mission Valley, Montana, December 5-9, 2013

Wings: Newfoundland: Winter Birds, January 12-18, 2014


Field Guides: Yellowstone in Winter, January 17-25, 2014

Naturalist Journeys: Washington State Winter Birding Tour, February 15-21, 2014

High Lonesome Birdtours: Alaska: Nome and the Seward Peninsula, May 29-June 2, and June 3-7, 2014

Birdquest: Alaska, June 2-14, 2014

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours: Grand Alaska Part I: Nome and the Pribilofs, June 9-19, 2014; Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali Highway & Kenai Peninsula: Jun 19-27, 2014


Eagle-Eye Tours: Northwest Passage East to West, August 12-28, 2014;  Northwest Passage West to East, August 28-September 11, 2014

Avocet Tours: Vancouver Day Tours

Tours to watch for


Rockjumper Birding Tours: Alaska — Denali and Kenai


Arctic Wild: Alaska Winter Adventure in Gates of the Arctic

Wilderness Birding Adventures: Arctic Refuge Solstice Base Camp; Nome, Alaska

About our poll

We wanted to know, and you told us.

Earlier this year, we published a list of 240 bird species that occur in the United States and Canada and asked readers of BirdWatching magazine to choose the 10 that they wanted to see most.

We derived our list from the authoritative ABA Checklist. We included all rare, casual, and accidental species (ABA Checklist Codes 3, 4, and 5); regularly occurring North American species that are not widespread (Codes 1 and 2); and one species that was once dangerously close to extinction but today is surviving in captivity and struggling to become naturally re-established (Code 6). We omitted most species not native to North America.

Nearly 900 of our readers participated. Their 10 most-wanted birds include three owls, a handful of endangered species, a clown-faced puffin, a blue-footed seabird that is rarely spotted in the United States, and America’s one and only condor.


We presented the 10 most-wanted birds in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching. Our article included not only the descriptions, population info, and eBird maps above but also 10 things you didn’t know about each species.

Originally Published

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