Polar Bear Blog

Gyrfalcon catches gull at Dymond Lake Eco-lodge as polar bear watches in background

Gyrfalcon with gull, polar bear in background. Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge
Gyrfalcon has gull lunch in claws as polar bear watches in background. Derek Kyostia photo.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Most visitors to Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge for the Great Ice Bear Adventure have one thing on their mind, and that is Ursus maritimus, better known as the polar bear. That’s understandable, but there many other fascinating creatures that wander or fly along the coast of Hudson Bay, which brings me to this post on one of the most amazing birds of the north, the Gyrfalcon.

In order to survive the Gyrfalcon has to be a very skilled hunter. It is known to prey on everything from birds like ptarmigan and gulls (as seen in the Gyrafalcon’s claws in the photo above) to mice and even short-tailed weasels and Arctic foxes.

This beautiful hunter of the sky is commonly seen in three colours. White Gyrfalcons are most common at Dymond Lake and blue Gyrfalcons are the least common. There are also brown Gyrfalcons with hints of white feathers highlighted by the summer sun. These are not colour phases, but rather just the natural plumage from all white to a dark brown depending on location.

We have a natural ridge near the Lodge which is covered by five foot willows. Small creatures wander and scavenge for food in these willows, and Gryfalcons and Snowy Owls make this area home during the fall season for good reason. They are very successful at filling their bellies and preparing for the inevitable deep freeze to come.

Gyrfalcons are the largest of the falcon species and they have only one natural predator, that being golden eagles, but the eagles rarely engage with these formidable falcons.

We always love to see the Gyrfalcons soaring through the sky or diving for prey, but this year one of our guides, Derek Kyostia, managed to catch one enjoying a meal after a gull hunt north of Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast.

Now I’m hungry.

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