In the 12 and 13th Centuries falconry was very popular among the Mongolian tribes. The sons of Genghis Khan are known to have hunted swans with falcons on the plains near Samarkand, China. In the 1200s, Marco Polo reported that Kublai Khan's hawking party included 10,000 falconers carrying a 'vast number of gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons and sakers. Today falconry is practiced worldwide with many raptor species and subspecies used for hunting.
Gyrfalcons living in the high Arctic overwinter out at sea, spending long periods living and hunting on pack ice.
The birds likely rest on the ice and hunt other seabirds such as gulls and guillemots, over what appears to be one of the largest winter ranges yet documented for any raptor.
The gyrfalcon is famous for its superb hunting and flying skills. The gyrfalcon even let itself be trained by humans to a perfect cooperation as early as 1.500 years ago.
Human hunting has until recently been the primary threat to the gyrfalcon, however without much influence on the stock. Only a few decades ago it was not unusual that up to 250 gyrfalcons were shot while migrating during the first 18 days of September at Scoresby Sund in Greenland. In Iceland too, human hunting is a problem for the gyrfalcon. Here hunters and farmers want to protect the grouse stock.
Gyrfalcons eat mainly ptarmigan and grouse, but also hunt seabirds, waterfowl, ground squirrels, and lemmings.
All falcons have a savage and predacious disposition, especially the Gyrfalcon. Because of their swiftness and excellent far seeing eyesight they became excellent hunters.
The birds establish their nest on cliff faces offering a view of the hunting area.
Gyrfalcons often hunt using a fast, low flight to chase their prey. Just before catching the prey, these falcons typically fly up and then dive straight down onto their prey. Prey can be taken in the air or on the ground.
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