Today we highlight the largest Falcon in the world: the Gyrfalcon. This magnificent creature is a rescue who just happened to finish his evening supper. Don’t you just love the way he posed for the camera?
Ok, let’s start with pronunciation. The word Gyrfalcon, probably evolved from Old Norse, but linguists do not completely agree on the specific origin of the word.
I can’t imagine why they decided to make this one word, instead of two, like all the other species of falcon….but…….they did.
As we all know, many words in the English language are not always pronounced the way they look. (The
word “phonics” comes to mind.) Gyrfalcon looks like it should be pronounced
“gire”-falcon, starting with a hard G and rhyming with the word tire. But no,
that would be too easy. In Gyrfalcon, the “g” is soft (sounding like “j” as in George). The “y” is quick and short (like “myth”) and the “r” is well…still an “r”.
Together they sound like “jer,” as in gerbil. Thus, the correct way to pronounce the name of this raptor is jer-falcon…..hmmm, interesting…ok, all together now: GYRFALCON
Now, for the characteristics of this beautiful creature: most people think of falcons as sleek bird-eating predators with blazing flight speed, and this is
true. But Gyrfalcons aren’t like the other falcons. They are certainly fast and
love to eat birds, but they are a long way from being sleek. They are chunk-os,
with the physique of a guy who treats himself to a pint of Haagen Dazs as a mid-afternoon snack each day. Their robust size probably has to do with where they live.
Gyrfalcons breed in arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. Up there, they feed on hares, lemmings and grouse. But their
food of choice is another bird with a name that is also hard to pronounce: ptarmigan. Ptarmigan (the “p” is silent) are chicken-like birds that also live
in the Arctic, and Gyrfalcons can’t get enough of them. Perhaps they actually
do taste like chicken! :))
When it comes to hunting, the Gyrfalcon is considered to be the fastest land animal at level flight–they turn in a
stoop at 200 mph within seconds. Their well-known cousin, the Peregrine Falcon, typically hunts by flying
high above the ground and then attacking prey via “supersonic” dives. This is way
too dramatic for Gyrfalcons. They can’t be bothered with all that diving. When
they spot prey they just go get it. Instead of flying high, they fly low, using
ridges and vegetation to hide their approach. Once Gyrfalcons decide they want
to eat something, very few creatures have the speed needed to escape these
Like other falcons, these birds of prey teach us the art of decision-making. There’s always opportunity that awaits. Gyrfalcon asks that you trust your instinct to know when the time is right to act on it.
Whatever choice you make at this time, once you’ve made it, commit to it fully and take the plunge.
Thank you, Gyrfalcon…