White-morph Gyrfalcon

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Saturday, February 22, 2014 

Yesterday I photographed a white-morph Gyrfalcon in Salt Lake City...yes, Salt Lake City, where Gyrfalcon is a rare bird! Not only that, but white-morphs are especially uncommon (as well as true dark-morphs), but the catch is that this bird was an escapee falconry bird. Oh well, however, the bird was still very enjoyable to see up close and watch in flight. It flew around a few times crossing over fairways (did I mention it was on a golf course?) and it was a sight to see regardless. Everything else about it besides being captive was pure GYR! And, being on a golf course gave me an itch to get out and hit a few balls. Here are some pics ('click' to enlarge) I got where the jesses on the legs were hidden. I did take many more photos with the jesses visible, and even though some are full frame and beautiful, I don't really find them desireable. And, if anyone is willing to take a stab at the age of the bird, go for it -- white ones can be tricky, but not with views like this.

Blogger Jon Ruddy said...

Exceptional. Nice find.

February 22, 2014 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess to the age is "I have no clue"

February 22, 2014 at 6:01 PM  
Anonymous D. Wilson said...

Jerry, falconer bird or not, those are the best white Gyrfalcon photos I've seen! Must have been a treat.

February 22, 2014 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

It was a treat, and thank you for the compliment, didn't have a lot of flight opportunities.

February 22, 2014 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Brenton Reyner said...

Great photos Jerry!

February 22, 2014 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Mia McPherson said...

I'll take stab at the age and guess that this bird was hatched last year. I didn't see any yellow in the cere or around the eyes and I would expect that in an adult.

It was wonderful seeing you again Jerry!

February 23, 2014 at 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

That was fun, wasn't it Jerry? Great photos! I missed my best chance at flight shots of this bird in good light because I was looking at some of Shyloh's Harlan's photos on his phone when the falcon took off the first time. I'll never learn... Enjoyed seeing you again!

February 23, 2014 at 6:23 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thanks Ron, Mia, and Brenton -- great to see you guys. As soon as my cat is 100% we'll get out!!!

February 23, 2014 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Juan Carlos said...

Ese halcon tiene mas de un año y menos de dos

February 23, 2014 at 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing set of Gyr images.
Thanks for posting.
Pete Gustas

February 23, 2014 at 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

Almost the classic juvie gyrfalcon. The molt (or lack of molt) shown in the wing is classic juvie shown well in the last photo with all flight feathers and primary coverts brownish. The cere and eye-ring are grayish and not yellow. The only thing that makes me pause is the yellow feet (shown only in the first photo). I always thought yellow feet indicated an adult bird. Jerry, is the foot color variable?
Jerry, I also noticed too, some extra brown feathers in the upperwing coverts (best seen in the first photo), what caused that?
Sorry for all the questions, but I've rarely found pictures of a gyr with such detail ... bravo!!

February 25, 2014 at 5:56 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Was this on 700 East, close to 33rd South? There was a beautiful falcon perched atop a billboard around sunset last night.

February 25, 2014 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

It isn't but I'd love to see that one...let me know if it sticks around

February 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I will definitely let you know!!

February 25, 2014 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thank you Amanda!! Hope you see it again

February 25, 2014 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Forgot to get back with the age question...anyway, it is an adult due to unstreaked underbody and barred upperside. However, ageing white Gyrfalcons can be tricky because it can take several years for the flesh parts in Gyrs to change, especially in females! You can see the cere and orbital ring are bluish like a juvenile, and the legs are greenish-yellow (but not visible in these pics). And this throws people off!

We can also say that this bird is in its first adult plumage (meaning it has only molted one time, and like most raptors, they acquire adult plumage after their first molt) by the few retained (browner) juvenile upperwing coverts.

February 28, 2014 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very beautiful bird. Though, the thought of an escaped falconer's bird with jesses still attached worries me. If it gets caught up in something, it's doomed. Was the falconer trying to get it back?

March 7, 2014 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Oh yeah, everything worked out andthe bird is back with its owner

March 7, 2014 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger LeOrmand said...

Way to go Jerry - a bird's a bird man no matter if it was "captive". Also, didn't now you were a golfer!

March 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM  

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