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VTBIRD Home

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VTBIRD  April 2005

VTBIRD April 2005

Subject:

White Morph Gyrfalcon

From:

Paula Gills <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 15 Apr 2005 09:36:56 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (62 lines)

Last evening when returning from work, I turned into my driveway and saw
a large white bird emerge in flight from the field I was facing--a
distance of around 100 yards. What I saw at that point was something
very white with a pure white breast and belly, about 2 feet in length,
with a fairly white back and wings with some broken black markings on
the lower upper wings and primaries. I slid my car into the garage, got
my 10x bins out of the car, and carefully relocated the bird a bit south
of the site of its launch perched in a deciduous tree between 100 and
200 yards out from the back of my house. I got a very good look at its
face and head which was white except for a dark patch running all the
way across the side of its head through the eye. The head was a bit
small in proportion to its very stocky body. It had a longish primary
extension and tail, white with black flecks in color. Again, it flew
south, this time to my neighbor's private land (seasonal home with land
I have permission to be on). I relocated the bird closer now in a tree
just to the front and south of their home. I was facing me. Again, I
saw the uniform white chest and height of about 2 feet. One remarkable
feature was the brilliant yellow feet that were just discernable below a
thick skirt of white feathering that covered the legs. It began to get
harassed by a resident raven. My neighbor from further down appeared
behind me on a farm vehicle, and it flew back to the tree line. We
relocated it in a tree at the field boundary and observed the same
features. Both being familiar with Red Tailed Hawk (we have a resident
neighborhood one that perches openly and frequently on both of our
lands), we ruled out an albino of that species, particularly because of
head shape, facial markings, and leg and foot appearance. I observed
the hawk again this morning at length and could clearly see the
differences in body shape and wing shape from the bird I saw last
evening. The last time I saw the falcon, it moved into the shelter of
the trees just at sunset. I have e-mail only at work, so this was my
first opportunity to post. I did not relocate this bird this
morning--only the hawk was about. It may be that when the hawk is
present, the falcon hunts elsewhere.

My neighbor told me that he had seen this bird in February across the
road and way up his land from the front of my house and was not sure if
it might not be a Snowy Owl--did not get long enough or multiple looks
to be sure what it was. He said that it had been about the area on my
neighbor's land for the past three days, but he had not gotten around to
telling me about it yet. He said he would let me know here at work if
he sees it today. My husband will check frequently for it, too. He
related to me last night that he has come upon at least one neat pile of
bird feathers that seemed to have been plucked and methodically placed
on the ground--might also suggest a falcon taking prey in the area.

There is no doubt at all in my mind after these observations, having
observed a Gray Morph Gyrfalcon at Parker Refuge about 5 years ago for
almost an hour, and consultation with several field guides that what I
had was a White Morph Gyrfalcon. I just hope I can relocate it so
others can share the striking beauty of this bird. The irony is that it
has most likely been around for two months, and I am just now finding it
when it is most likely getting ready to head north. I will note that the
land it has mostly been hanging around on is private with many large
open fields with tree border and hilly features--just the sort of
habitat this bird is noted to like. I will add that my neighbor
definitely wants his privacy and does not want anyone on his land--he is
a farmer and has animals. It is possible to see the bird from the road,
however, if it is in the right spot.

Paula Gills
Brookfield

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