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Update, Jan 28, 2002: added comments on Gyrfalcon tail-wear from Brian K. Wheeler, at the bottom of the page.

Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus, Lubbock, Texas on January 25, 2002 by Martin Reid. Found by Anthony Floyd on January 21st; all these (cropped) photos were taken using an SLR emulsion camera hand-held to my telescope; the upper images were shot through some branches, hence the areas of fuzziness:

my one slight concern while taking photos of the bird, was the degree of wear on some tail feathers:

- but a dip into my library showed that juvenile birds can and do show quite a lot of wear on the tail:- here are three examples lifted from BIRDING WORLD magazine; if the photographer wants me to remove any image, please email me:
1) Dick Forsman, Lapland, July 1991 ("Identification of large falcons: Gyr Falcon", Dick Forsman, BW vol 6 number 2, p66-72):

- note that the tip-sides of 3 or 4 retrices on the left side are already fraying by July:

2) Axel Halley, Germany, November 1989 (Identification forum: large falcons", Steve Gantleet and Richard Millington, BW vol 5 number 3, p101-106):

- note that this individual has similar tail-wear to the Lubbock bird by November:

3) George Reszeter, England, March 2000 ("Gyr Falcons in February and March 2000", Steve Gantlett, BW vol 13 number 3, p104-107):
Note here not only the wear on the tail of this white-morph juvenile, but also the position of the wing tips compared to the tail tip; it seems that Gyrs are able to sit in such a way that the normal long tail projection can disappear....

Brian K.Wheeler has commented: " "Wear" on the tail would signify that the bird has - as do most juvenile raptors that are "ground feeders" - broken tips on the retrices because the tail is used as a brace when tugging at meat. This is seen on juvenile Prairie Falcons and Ferruginous Hawks. The tail is braced on the ground and used for leverage when pulling at flesh chunks. This is especially true in windy areas, for the bird to retain balance. Much of the tail tip can be broken off.
As said previously, all plumage details point towards a juvenile (female) Gyr. The underwing pattern of course is the most accurate. Only a very pale Saker Falcon has a underwing pattern simlar to a Gyr, but Sakers have very defined, thin dark malar strip (mustache). Darker Sakers, similar to this Gyr, have all-dark leg feathers, not streaked as on a Gyr, and very dark underwing coverts. See Forsman (1999) and Clark (1999).
There is nothing on this bird that suggests hybridizing with a Saker.
Also as noted, virtually all Gyr sightings in the US are of females, and juveniles are likely to extend farther south than adults."