There are lots of things that I don’t know, but it’s not that often that someone tells me something and I think ‘Really? Can that be right? Sounds very odd! Never heard anything like that before’.
But that happened to me recently when I was contacted by someone I didn’t know who told me that the neighbourhood around where she lives is infested (she didn’t use that word) with free-flying Gyr Falcons.
Now a Gyr for most UK birders, must be one of the most hoped-for species. I’d love to see one, somewhere, some time, and so the idea that there are lots of them flying around some moorlands in Scotland sounded unlikely (I must admit) to me, but it appears to be true.
Does anyone out there know anything about this subject, please?
There is big money in captive breeding of Gyr Falcons for falconry in the Middle East (outside of the Gyr’s natural range by a long way) although many of the birds are actually hybrids between Gyrs and Peregrines – see the BirdLife International line on these. And there are a number of UK breeding centres (eg this one in Doncaster).
If this is all going on behind secure fences and tall walls then I guess it’s a rather quirky but slightly bizarre way to make a living, but it seems that the ‘best’ birds are produced (perhaps) with an element of wild hacking where the falcons are released for a while but enticed back into captivity with the provision of food. Letting lots of Gyr Falcons, or Gyr hybrids, fly around the moors of the UK is an interesting concept and I note that the Buccleugh Estate at Langholm was rather twitchy about this possibility – I don’t blame them.
The Moray area, around Dallas Moor, seems to be another of these sites where I have heard reports of large numbers of falcons being wild-hacked – can this possibly be true? If so then I think it would need a licence from SNH.
Does anyone know anything about this issue? There is one record of a Gyr Falcon wearing jesses in the rather good Moray and Nairn Bird Report for 2015.