I got back from Iceland late last night and I’ll be writing more about Iceland and its whaling today and over the next few days. But one species of bird for which I kept an eye open was, of course, the Gyr Falcon – I didn’t see any.
However, I have been sent the image above, from Moray, which contains three apparently Greenland Gyr Falcons and I’ve also received a helpful clarification from SNH licensing team.
Can you see the three falcons above? Two of them are on what looks like a dung heap…
… and the other is on the fence…
What a sight! And it certainly looks as though there are free-flying Gyr Falcons (or maybe hybrid falcons) in this part of Scotland – it seems they are being wild-hacked. Remember that SNH has already told this blog that ‘The practice of releasing larger numbers of birds with the intention of gathering them after a period of days or weeks, sometimes referred to as wild hacking, will require a licence if it involves non-native birds. To obtain a licence, contact Scottish Natural Heritage.’ and also that ‘There have been no licences applied for, issued or refused for wild hacking since the WANE Act came in to force‘ (ie 2011).
So, are hybrid falcons and Gyr Falcons non-native birds?
As you may know, the law in Scotland is slightly different to that in England and Wales. In terms of a species being ‘native’ or not the law is about releasing species outwith their native range.
Gyr falcons are considered to be outwith their native range in Scotland. Although they do turn up occasionally as vagrants, they are not on the Scottish list as a breeding species. This means that release of a gyr falcon in Scotland would be an offence.
A naturally occurring (e.g. vagrant) gyr falcon would be classified as a ‘wild bird’ under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act because they are found within member states of the EU. This would not however apply to captive-bred birds.
Gyr hybrids would not be protected as a wild bird and it would be an offence to release or allow one to escape from captivity.
That seems quite clear. If you live in a part of Scotland where there are lots of Gyr-looking Falcons at loose in the countryside, and if this concerns you, then you might want to report this to SNH and ask them what measures they are going to take. You could also inform your local authority and the police.