3 March 2018

On this day (March 3rd).............................

March 3rd 2014.

The Gyrfalcon at Sawara 4 years ago today. It may look bright and warm, cosy even.  but it was absolutely freezing with the wind coming off the sea................

Incidentally there is some evidence that this bird may not have been quite what it seemed. I was always surprised a) how tame it was b) its odd colouring and c) its damaged tail feathers. After seeing a picture on the internet about hybrid falcons and seeing how similar they were to this bird I voiced my concerns in a couple of places including here. There are some strong arguments made against it being a wild Gyrfalcon (mainly about the aforementioned tail and also the bird's moulting details) but....................see below.

It was suggested it may have been a hybrid Gyrfalcon/Saker falcon that had escaped from a falconer. I've tried emailing the Japanese Falconry Association for their opinion but got no reply. I did however contact a falconry group on facebook and encouragingly none of them thought it was a hybrid including several folk who keep/breed hybrids themselves. It was also put forward that the tail could have been damaged naturally due to its hunting style (the wings are undamaged) and its choice of habitat. Also such falcons are very valuable and are always ringed which this bird clearly isn't.

The colouring may indicate it is a rare genetic mutation that very occasionally occurs naturally. If it was a captive bird apparently it would be very valuable due to the colour. One Japanese falconer said that Gyrs are rarely kept in Japan because they are very vulnerable to disease because of the hot humid summers, Some of the falconers are kindly making further enquiries anyway ......................

Another one visited the same place a couple of years later (but only for a short time and I couldn't see it).............

A lot of Japanese birders saw and photographed it, including the author of a famous Japanese fieldguide. It was in numerous magazines.

I thought about unticking it but I haven't yet. Maybe we'll never know its true origin.


  1. Very interesting information and good shot. Hope you have a wonderful weekend

  2. Hard to know what to do about potentially "Unticking" it....but that kind of thing happens all the time with Gulls !

    1. I think it is OK to call it a real Gyrfalcon.....


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