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Members: Some may be unaware that various combinations of hybrid falcon
species have been captive bred in this country and elsewhere for decades
now. Virtually all of this effort has been associated with supplying
domestically bred birds for falconry. Consequently, there are a multitude of
large falcon types and plumages now in circulation. 

Given this circumstance, it is entirely possible that the mystery falcon is
an escaped hybrid falcon vs. a wild (out of range) gyrfalcon. A "wild"
gyrfalcon would be highly intolerant of Florida's heat and humidity and
highly vulnerable to sub-tropical diseases and pathogens and would not
likely survive for long any distance south of the specie's normal migratory
range in higher latitudes. Conversely, some hybrids with mixed genetics are
more tolerant of warm climates and less prone to lower latitudes diseases,
thus their appeal to falconers.  

Caution: Even a good photograph of the subject bird would not provide
sufficient documentation of a vagrant gyrfalcon given the appearance of
hybrid and captive raised falcons. Any disparity with "natural" Peregrines
could be determined in the field via length of tail to folded wings when
perched, but some hybrids share features of both species. 

Obtaining an accurate identification of the mystery falcon would prove
highly problematic if not impossible given the foregoing circumstances.  


Patrick Leary, Fernandina Beach, FL     

-----Original Message-----
From: Florida Birds [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Brian
C. Monk
Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 6:24 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [FLORIDABIRDS-L] VERY LARGE, dark falcon, Palm Beach Co.

Hi y'all!
 
I rarely post, because I rarely see anything that I think is worthy of  
notice.   I content myself to birding the St 27 corridor from 75 to  Belle 
Glade, and occasionally 98 from Belle Glade to Southern Blvd.  It is  an 
excellent route, and I am fascinated by the transient nature of the bird  
populations in this part of the Everglades and the agricultural land it has
been  
turned into. I have seen ONE (!) birder on this route in the last 5 years,  
since I moved my greenhouse to Belle Glade and make the weekly trip.  Which
is 
a shame, because this place is very birdy.  Especially right now.
 
Rt. 827 is familiar to most of you, because it is the road that one takes  
west from 27 to a stand of trees, which has been reliable for Barn Owls.   
Most Florida birders have made that trip at least once.  But on the other  
side of 27, if one takes 827 EAST, there is another jewel - at least it is a

jewel this year.  At the corner of 827, where it jogs immediately north  
from its easterly path, there is a flooded field just to the east, beyond
the  
canal.  It is easily visible from the road. This is the first year  that the

field has been allowed to lay fallow and flood (something that is done  to 
control nematodes, I am told.).  The population of waders, shorebirds,  and 
waterfowl in this place is enormous, and reminds me a little of Bombay Hook

at perpetual low tide in August.  Of course, all of these birds are the  
usual suspects, including huge flocks of Blue-Winged Teal and peeps.
 
Today, while glassing the area from the roof of my truck, I spotted the  
tell-tale signs of a predator - large flocks of shorebirds and waterfowl 
rapidly  flying in coordinated waves.  The bird responsible confused me
briefly, 
as  it was so large that I immediately thought "Buteo."   But it was not a  
RTHa, as I was expecting.  Instead it was a tremendously large and very  
dark falcon.  My first thought then was, Peregrine.  But I have seen  many 
Peregrines, including one actually carrying a teal after capturing  it.
This 
bird was bigger.  My intial impressions was that there was  less contrast 
between the facial markings, and less contrast between dorsal and  ventral 
plumage, than the typical PeFa juveniles I have seen at this time in
Florida.  
The bird did appear to behave as though it were immature, as its  hunting 
strategy seemed to include a great deal of missing and perching on  the
ground. 
 Unfortunately, the bird was a very long way away, and I only  had my bins 
- no scope or photos.  In short, while I wouldn't bet my life  on it, I did 
consider the idea that this might be an immature Gyrfalcon.  I  can see no 
reason to immediately cull this identification, at least without  further 
examination.  While I think that immature Gyr is unlikely, it  certainly fit

into the size, time of year, and behavior of this bird.  I  would strongly 
recommend that someone go to this place and look for this bird; I  will not
be 
able to.
 
Brian Monk,  DVM


954-802-6710

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