Gyrfalcon - State Line Lookout, Palisades, New Jersey

January 22, 2017  •  2 Comments

After reading the report of a possible gray morph Gyrfalcon at the State Line Lookout, Palisades, New Jersey even this cloudy, dreary day didn't stop me from visiting the Palisades. As I often do, I ventured away from the group of photographers and headed north of the hawk watch to enjoy the park. As I was coming back from my hike, around 4PM, I've noticed a larger (than peregrine) bird flying low below the cliffs. As I was taking a series of photographs, this falcon took a wide turn and headed towards me. Most likely it was interested in the sound of my camera :) Right after, Gyrfalcon disappeared below the cliffs. It is possible that either it perched somewhere "under" the hawk watch platform or flew "under the cliffs", undetected by the group of photographers/birders that was standing by the south "peregrine" perch. 

Thanks go to Mike Girone and Michael Britt for spreading the word on the message boards!

Unfortunately, Gyrfalcon mostly stayed far away from the cliffs but I was able to get some photographs that I hope will help with identification of this bird:

Rare gray Gyrfalcon flying by the State Line Lookout, NJGray GyrfalconState Line Lookout, New Jersey

Rare gray Gyrfalcon flying by the State Line Lookout, NJGray GyrfalconState Line Lookout, New Jersey Rare gray Gyrfalcon flying by the State Line Lookout, NJGray GyrfalconState Line Lookout, New Jersey Rare gray Gyrfalcon flying by the State Line Lookout, NJGray GyrfalconState Line Lookout, New Jersey

Rare gray Gyrfalcon flying by the State Line Lookout, NJGray GyrfalconState Line Lookout, New Jersey

I hope that this Gyrfalcon stays for couple more days so more people can see it! 

 

Update 1/25

As far as I know, this gyrfalcon was last seen on Monday 1/23 late afternoon. There were no resightings in the past two days...

Update 1/26

Gyrfalcon was seen today between 1:20PM and 2PM. It was last seen flying across the river towards Yonkers. You can also check these 2 Facebook groups for current updates, discussions and tips: https://www.facebook.com/groups/njbirds/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493442824231198/ 

Update 1/27

Once again, Gyrfalcon was seen today, around 1PM. At this time, it was seen being chased by local pair of Peregrine Falcons. It perched on a tree, north of hawk watch, and later was seen flying across the river towards Yonkers. 

Update 1/28

I've spent 4 hours at the lookout waiting for this bird but it was a no show. I left before 3PM... As of 5:30PM, I didn't hear any positive reports from others either. Hopefully, gyrfalcon is still around and will come to the lookout on Sunday. Fingers crossed...

Update 1/29-30

A lot of man power and time was put in in search for this bird at the hawk watch. Unfortunately, this is a day 3 without 100% positive sightings of the gyrfalcon.

Update 2/2

As most of us thought that this bird had moved on north, it was briefly seen flying over the hawk watch in last two days. I'm not sure of the accuracy of these reports but there is hope :)

 

Thank you all reporting back on recent sighings of this Gyrfalcon!

 

Please help to continue the preservation of New Jersey's threatened and endangered wildlife by supporting work of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJwww.conservewildlifenj.org/getinvolved/donate/ as well as The Peregrine Fundhttps://peregrinefund.org/donate

You can also support their efforts by shopping on Amazon, at no additional cost to you, via Amazon Smile http://smile.amazon.com <- make sure to pick "Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Inc" or "Peregrine Fund Inc" as you charity.

If you make your Amazon purchase via this link: http://amzn.to/19kQxUT I will personally donate 3x the amount that Amazon would!

If interested, you can view more of my falcon photography, at: www.greggard.com/falcons

Here is some general information about Gyrfalcons from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gyrfalcon/id):

  • Size & Shape

    Gyrfalcons are very large falcons. They have pointed wings, but they are not as pointed or as narrow as the wings of smaller falcons. The tail is relatively long. The body is thick and powerful, particularly in females, which are substantially larger than males.

  • Color Pattern

    Although the classic image of a Gyrfalcon is a regal white bird with black spotting, the birds occur in shades of white, gray, and dark brown. In North America, gray birds are more numerous than the other two morphs. Adults are heavily barred on the back, wings, and tail, with spotted underparts. Juveniles are heavily streaked; the flight feathers of dark juveniles are lighter and contrast with the rest of the wing.

  • Behavior

    They hunt primarily birds in open country, sometimes flying high and attacking from above, but more often approaching fast and low, hugging ground contours. They often perch on the ground.

  • Habitat

    Gyrfalcons breed on arctic tundra. When they come south for winter, they look for similar habitat: open fields, coastlines, dunes, prairie, and shrubsteppe.

Interesting Facts:

- The Gyrfalcon hunts mostly ptarmigan, and its breeding distribution is strikingly similar to that of the Rock Ptarmigan. But it preys on many other bird species, including sage-grouse, jaegers, gulls, terns, fulmars, auks, pheasants, hawks, owls, ravens, and songbirds. It can also hunt mammals as big as hares.

- When their chicks are too small to eat an entire prey item in one meal, female Gyrfalcons store leftovers behind vegetation within a few hundred feet of the nest, and retrieve the food later for themselves or their chicks. Little is known of food-caching outside the breeding season; in one case, a Gyrfalcon was seen retrieving a frozen ptarmigan and chipping off pieces of meat to eat, in mid-winter in the Aleutian Islands.

- During the breeding season, a family of Gyrfalcons needs an estimated 2–3 pounds of food per day. That’s about 2-3 ptarmigans per day, which adds up to about 150-200 ptarmigan consumed between courtship and fledging.

- Gyrfalcon is pronounced as "JER-falcon." The name probably evolved from Old Norse, but linguists do not completely agree on the specific origin of the word.

-Male Gyrfalcons are commonly seen capturing fledgling songbirds in the area around the nest. They probably seek small prey only when it can be obtained quickly, since larger prey provides a bigger payoff for their efforts.

- Adult males are much smaller than females: males average less than 3 pounds while females average up to 4 pounds. Both males and females have highly variable plumage coloration, ranging from nearly pure white to dark gray-brown. In North America, most are an intermediate gray color.

- The oldest Gyrfalcon on record, a male, was at least 14 years, 8 months old when he was recaptured and released at a banding station in Wisconsin in 2015.

 

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Comments

3.Greg Gard
Thank you all for visiting and leaving kind comments! (I read all the private comments too :) ). I'm happy that State Line Lookout hosts such a rare bird! Good news is that the birds was seen today again. I hope it sticks around so we can enjoy it in a better weather :)
2.James Wilkinson(non-registered)
beautiful photos!
No comments posted.
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