Arctic bird of prey (Falco rusticolus), the largest falcon. It may reach 2 ft (60 cm) in length. It breeds only in the North Pole region (and in some Central Asian highlands) but is sometimes seen at lower latitudes when food is scarce. It varies from pure white with black speckling to dark gray with barring. Its legs are fully feathered. It hunts near the ground for hares, rodents, and birds of the tundra and seacoast. In traditional falconry, the gyrfalcon was the bird of kings.
Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) with prey.—Shelly Grossman/Woodfin Camp & Associates
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