Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gyrfalcon

Immature Gyrfalcon flying over Fort Pierre National Grasslands

Late yesterday afternoon I saw an immature Gyrfalcon a few miles south of Pierre. Gyrfalcons, the largest members of the falcon family, commonly spend the winter in central South Dakota. An immature Gyrfalcon (presumably this same bird) has been seen for several months in nearly the exact spot I found the bird yesterday. I saw it perched on a fence post, but before I could raise my camera to take a picture, it flew. I did manage the above photo of the bird in flight. You can see a few identifying characteristics: long tail, fairly uniform gray-brown coloration, heavy body, and typical falcon wings. Wintering Gyrfalcons feed on waterfowl in the late fall and early spring, but most of their diet consists of Sharp-tailed Grouse, Prairie Chickens, and Ring-necked Pheasants.

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