Gyr falcon flies in for a festive break

The beautiful gyr falcon which is now on South Uist. Photograph: John Kemp.
The beautiful gyr falcon which is now on South Uist. Photograph: John Kemp.
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AN unusual visitor from the skies has alighted on South Uist and despite the time of year, it’s not wearing a red hat and fluffy white beard.

The gyr falcon, probably from Greenland, had been seen around RSPB Balranald reserve on North Uist, but has now moved south and is causing some alarm amongst local wildlife.

Jamie Boyle, RSPB Site Manager at Balranald, said: “This gyr falcon has been hunting a wide range of prey from gulls to geese and has an incredible effect on the wildlife – you can almost feel the tension in the air when it’s around.

“They hunt small mammals as well as birds, so rabbits might be playing a part in keeping it here.”

The gyr falcon is the biggest falcon, being about the same size as a buzzard, yet tend to hunt on the ground, waiting on a rock or tussock for prey watching prey.

Most gyr falcons which turn up on the Uists are from Greenland and are usually lighter in colour than those from Iceland and Scandinavia.

Mr Boyle added: “The books say that on the whole they are not migratory and hand around the ice flows and mountains of the Arctic, but we seem to get them almost every year in the Uists.”