New Brunswick

Rare white gyrfalcon spotted in Eel River Bar area

The white morph gyrfalcon was photographed in the Eel River Bar area Thursday by Jim Clifford, months after it had been first spotted by Ken Reinsborough.

Dalhousie resident Ken Reinsborough spotted the rare bird of prey twice in same area

This white gyrfalcon was spotted in Eel River Bar by Ken Reinsborough and photographed by Jim Clifford. (Submitted by Jim Clifford)

The second sighting of a rare gyrfalcon in New Brunswick has excited the local birding community.

The white gyrfalcon was photographed in the Eel River Bar area Thursday by Jim Clifford, months after it had been first spotted by Ken Reinsborough, who lives in Dalhousie, N.B.

"To me, really the most, like the ultimate bird...I'm asked very often 'what your ultimate bird [to see] Alain' and I would have to say a white morph gyrfalcon," said Shift New Brunswick birding columnist, Alain Clavette. 

Jim Clifford took the most amazing photo, and Alain Clavette spoke with Ken Reinsborough who first spotted the bird in the Eel River Bar area. 12:19

Reinsborough told Clavette he thought the bird was a seagull when he saw it on Dec. 3 but at his wife's insistence he had another look. 

He took a picture and sent it to Clifford, an avid birder, as well as another man for identification.

"It came back with two excited people," said Reinsborough." I was dumbfounded. I didn't realize how important that was or how rare that was."

Reinsborough says the birders thought it may have been the only picture ever taken of the white gyrfalcon in the province.

Spotted again

In the weeks and months following the initial sighting, birders tried to spot the bird again but it didn't appear until Feb. 25.

Once again, it was Reinsborough who saw it. He said he's been keeping watch for it when driving in that area and found it when he turned around to get another look at a bird. 

"Sure enough, there it was feeding on a duck," said Reinsborough.

Reinsborough says he called Clifford, who was out of town but was able to get back in time, to photograph the gyrfalcon sitting on a stump after it had finished feeding.

Marked territory

Clavette says he thinks the white gyrfalcon has been there for a while and has marked that area of the Chaleur Bay as its territory. 

He told Shift the white gyrfalcon is largest falcon in the world and has a similar shape to a peregrine falcon.

"The tip of the wings is more rounded than on peregrine and when they fly, the wing beat is slower, deeper but more powerful than the peregrine and it actually flies faster than the peregrine."

Clavette says the gyrfalcons can colour morph which means they can have different colourations — ranging from pure white to a very dark grey or brown.

"The white one, to me is the most mystical one," said Clavette, who added gray ones are seen the most. 

Young adult flew south

Clavette says from the picture of the bird, it would appear to be a young adult that has made its way south because there may not be enough territory for it further north.

He adds the gyrfalcon will hunt anything and it is the only bird of prey that can fly straight up to strike at a bird that is overhead.

"They're known to kill rough-legged hawks and short-eared owls so very big, powerful birds."


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