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What's this big falcon from Hokkaido, Japan?

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 17:32   #26
hwinbermuda
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Originally Posted by BobbitWorm45 View Post
Falconry is a tradition in Japan, known as Takagari. I think goshawk is a favoured bird. In Korea they hunt with goshawk that is kept for a short period and then released back into the wild.
This was the subject of a documentary on BBC2 (UK) a couple of days ago

South Korea Earths Hidden Wilderness

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09s0lss

It almost made it sound as if it was alright to capture wild goshawks, because they later released them....

Harry
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 19:47   #27
P.Sunesen
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Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
If the bird has moulted it's feathers, then no, it would obvioiusly have new feathers but I have no idea what the moult strategy of a captive Falcon is likely to be, does it mirror wild bird moult cycles, Tom?

The tail on this bird looks quite short to me suggesting either old, damaged feathers or new, incomplete growth which shouldn't be so tatty so iId say it hasn't moulted it's tail in the 5 months?


A
I'm not Tom, but captive birds basically follow the same moulting timing as do wild birds.

This bird is a juvenile(1cy/2cy), and both wings and tail are not moulted until in the summer/autumn when the immature falcon acquires its first adult plumage.

However, the body feathers, as well as wing coverts, are being gradually (and with much individual variation) moulted even as early as from late in the first calendar year.

Since this bird was photograhed over an extended period in winter/early spring, the wings and tail of course remained unmoulted. These feathers, grown in the nest, would thus not be shed until well into the summer months, when the bird would be approximately one year old.

My point about possible captivity, is merely based on the fact that if you study museum skins, and/or good photos of large falcon in their first year (with juvenile remiges and retrices) you'd be hard pressed to find an individual with as brutal wear (broken tips of ALL 12 tail feathers) as this Japanese falcon exhibits.

This kind of wear, on the other hand, is seen very commonly on birds in captivity where birds fly against, and hang on to the wire mesh in an aviary. To keep their balance they press the tail against the wire mesh repeatedly, eventually causing all the otherwise extremely durable feather shafts to break.

This fact, together with the "un-Gyr-like" newly grown first adult wing coverts made me suggest a Saker x Gyr hybrid as much more likely than a confiding, atypically dirty/stained (look at the rusty brown belly and vent) Gyrfalcon with a highly atypical type of wing coverts AND with a broken tail......

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 19:49   #28
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
A flight shot
This wonderful flight shot perfectly illustrates the broken tips of all tail feathers.

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 20:50   #29
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
At the risk of sounding stupid, I'm genuinely curious.............why are the broken tail tips a sure sign of captivity?
Not at all, it's an important question. Peter has already given part of the answer though.
The extent of tail feather abrasion shown by this bird can be considered abnormal. It's not usually seen in wild birds. Extreme feather wear per se is not a sure sign of captivity, no, as it can be indeed caused by freak accidents or feather mite infestation, for example. It does depends on the type/pattern of abrasion. The way this bird's tail feathers are worn suggests best to me continued abrasion/rubbing, it doesn't look like it resulted from one single episode (some of the tail feathers besides having the tips broken, the hanging barbs are also worn irregularly, if this makes sense). I think it would be important to check the very first photos obtained of this bird to see it the tail was already like that when the bird was first found. It's interesting that there are no signs of heavy abrasion on wing feathers, but perhaps not meaningfully. A bird kept in captivity could also show tell tale signs on the bare parts (strange callosities on feet, discoloured cere, etc), but nothing of this is "a science". It's just something else that should be taken into account when "evaluating" records of out of range or rare birds, especially when they are known to be regularly kept in captivity such as some passerines and indeed falcons.
(Of course, an absence of strange feather wear wouldn't necessarily mean the bird had not been in captivity, as it all depends on the conditions the bird is kept).
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 00:17   #30
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Originally Posted by RafaelMatias View Post
I think it would be important to check the very first photos obtained of this bird to see it the tail was already like that when the bird was first found.
It was first seen in late December 2013 and I first saw it on January 2nd 2014. Here are 4 photos, the 1st on Jan 2nd and the rest on other dates up to Jan 20th.
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 00:27   #31
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Originally Posted by tconzemi View Post
Hokaidostu, I find the remarks by Peter about moulted cover most interesting, do you have a pic of the bird as late in season as possible?
Here are 4 photos from the end of the season. The first 3 were taken April 6/7 and the last one atop the telephone pole was April 13th, the last date the bird was seen by me.
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 00:29   #32
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Many thanks. Your photos suggest/indicate the tail was already damaged since it was first found. Obviously not conclusive for anything, but it's an extra bit of info. A beautiful bird, nevertheless.
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 00:32   #33
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Thanks for all the replies by the way. I appreciate it and would like to get to the bottom of this bird's origin.

It survived quite nicely that winter and regularly hunted large gulls successfully as well as a Short-eared Owl which was killed and eaten much to the shock of the local birders.........

A large female Peregrine regularly occurs in that area in winter which was also chased off (at least the Gyr/hybrid/whatever-it-is didn't try to breed with it!).

All my photos of the bird can be found here by the way. I spent a lot of time with it and took a lot of photos...........luckily it was quite a long time ago and I'll be able to see the funny side if it is an escaped hybrid.

It'll make finding a real Gyr even more satisfying......................!
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 08:00   #34
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Thanks for all the replies by the way. I appreciate it and would like to get to the bottom of this bird's origin.

It survived quite nicely that winter and regularly hunted large gulls successfully as well as a Short-eared Owl which was killed and eaten much to the shock of the local birders.........

A large female Peregrine regularly occurs in that area in winter which was also chased off (at least the Gyr/hybrid/whatever-it-is didn't try to breed with it!).

All my photos of the bird can be found here by the way. I spent a lot of time with it and took a lot of photos...........luckily it was quite a long time ago and I'll be able to see the funny side if it is an escaped hybrid.

It'll make finding a real Gyr even more satisfying......................!
Clearly the tail was damaged when the bird was first seen in said area.

I took this for granted, since such wear/damage very rarely occurs in wild Gyr/Sakers no matter if the young grew up on a rock-ledge or in a nest made of twigs.

One interesting facet of the many brilliant fotos, is the way you can follow the progress of the moulting body feathers and wing coverts.

The fresh latter ones are noticeably darker than the remaining, juvenile ones.

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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 08:25   #35
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Originally Posted by P.Sunesen View Post
Clearly the tail was damaged when the bird was first seen in said area.

I took this for granted, since such wear/damage very rarely occurs in wild Gyr/Sakers no matter if the young grew up on a rock-ledge or in a nest made of twigs.

One interesting facet of the many brilliant fotos, is the way you can follow the progress of the moulting body feathers and wing coverts.

The fresh latter ones are noticeably darker than the remaining, juvenile ones.

Peter
Peter, thanks for the valuable information on second plumage Saker coverts, I wasn’t aware about that
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Old Wednesday 14th February 2018, 22:35   #36
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Hi all... It would be interesting to know where this bird might have originated (if it is in fact a hybrid?). Are there many practising falconers on Hokkaido and would many/any be flying gyr hybrids? Indeed, are hybrid falcons allowed to be flown in Japan period, and if so, are they bred by Japanese breeders or imported?

(By the way, Stu - those are amazing photos!)

Cheers,
patudo

Last edited by Patudo : Wednesday 14th February 2018 at 22:40.
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Old Thursday 15th February 2018, 00:12   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patudo View Post
Hi all... It would be interesting to know where this bird might have originated (if it is in fact a hybrid?). Are there many practising falconers on Hokkaido and would many/any be flying gyr hybrids? Indeed, are hybrid falcons allowed to be flown in Japan period, and if so, are they bred by Japanese breeders or imported?

(By the way, Stu - those are amazing photos!)

Cheers,
patudo
I contacted the Japanese Falconers Association but have had no reply as of yet.................the website didn't look like it has been updated for a while however so i'm not holding my breath.
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Old Thursday 15th February 2018, 09:19   #38
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Originally Posted by Patudo View Post
Hi all... It would be interesting to know where this bird might have originated (if it is in fact a hybrid?). Are there many practising falconers on Hokkaido and would many/any be flying gyr hybrids? Indeed, are hybrid falcons allowed to be flown in Japan period, and if so, are they bred by Japanese breeders or imported?

(By the way, Stu - those are amazing photos!)

Cheers,
patudo
See from post 18



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Old Monday 19th February 2018, 12:10   #39
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Hi,
all still bemused by this. No one seemed to mention that as much as the tail-feathers were bedraggled the primaries were immaculate and still had those little pointed tips. The tail looked if the bird had been kept in a confined space rather than a cage but of course this is mere speculation.
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Old Monday 19th February 2018, 15:24   #40
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Hi,
all still bemused by this. No one seemed to mention that as much as the tail-feathers were bedraggled the primaries were immaculate and still had those little pointed tips. The tail looked if the bird had been kept in a confined space rather than a cage but of course this is mere speculation.
See e.g. post 29.
Quote:
It's interesting that there are no signs of heavy abrasion on wing feathers, but perhaps not meaningfully.
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Old Tuesday 20th February 2018, 11:56   #41
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Rafael,
thanks for pointing this out to me.
Still intrigued with this because the primary tips were pristine yet the wing feathers often go through wire mesh.
Near where I live there is a lab where they knock birds like these out for middle-eastern market at a thirty thousand pounds a throw. Every couple of years or so we come across escaped birds like these.
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Old Thursday 1st March 2018, 08:45   #42
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An update on this bird.............

I didn't hear anything from the Japanese Falconry Association but I did ask the main falconer's group on facebook their opinion. They had some interesting things to say. Unfortunately it's a closed group (the name is 'falconry hub') so unless you want to join the group on facebook you'll have to make do with my cutting and pasting.

Of course their views come from a different perspective than us birders but they were very interested in the bird and were also very helpful.

I asked directly if anyone thought it was an escapee and/or hybrid. Nobody thought it was a hybrid, not a single one and many commented on the post I created. One poster keeps Gyrfalcons and owns hybrids too.


One interesting point made by several people is that all birds kept by falconers in Japan and neighbouring countries are ringed and this bird clearly wasn't. This guy had lived in Japan and is a falconer from Canada.

" Not many falconers flying big falcons on Hokkaido. Further to that, falconry birds are always banded with closed rings in Japan, and no matter what, are never just released - they simply are too valuable a commodity"

Re the tail feathers suggesting it was an escapee. One poster made the following interesting point:

"Primaries seem to be perfect, tail is a little damaged maybe off the tussles with those gulls, you can see where the ends are broke, that could easily have been done on a tussle with prey especially on that dark gritty ‘beach’ it looks to be on... I’ve had a tiercel do that with prey on a gravel path but trying to keep the wings in the air and safe but using the tail as an anchor to try and steady and hold the prey so they get ‘tipped’"

The beach where it stayed was made up of coarse volcanic sand and it seemed to hunt gulls who fed on fish offal at a nearby seafood processing factory (where they were feeding on concrete/gravel), it did spend a lot of the time resting on the ground too.

Several people did comment on the unusual colouring.

"The morphology says gyr to me. The “golden saker” I believe is a genetic mutation, I wonder as they are both members of hierofalcon if Gyrs could throw this same mutation on occasion"

So the falconers' views are a) it isn't a hybrid and b) it isn't an escapee either and c) the colouring is very unusual.

Anyway, it was useful to hear some different opinions. I haven't unticked it yet.
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Old Thursday 1st March 2018, 10:45   #43
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One of the falconers has got in touch with Clayton White, a falcon expert in the US who has studied Gyrfalcons.

He stated that birds "from the far Aleutian islands. Clayton noted that some of these birds, as well as the Peal's Peregrine took on a bleached appearance"
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Old Thursday 1st March 2018, 11:08   #44
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Falcon id

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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Thanks for the replies. It was identified at the time as an immature Gyrfalcon and of course I was delighted with that.

By coincidence I found this picture whilst poking around the internet this afternoon: a hybrid Gyr/Saker. It does look rather similar to my bird. Now the doubts have set in. The bird I saw was rather tame I recall.............
Hi all,
This continues to interest me and we seemed to have exhausted all speculation about plumage wear.
Every 10 years or so people ask if this Tunnicliffe, shown below, is a saker falcon. Tunnicliffe in fact produced this post juvenal\Ist year of the white gyr form from a known gyr specimen, verbatim. Also regarding the gyr-saker hybrid as in Rafael's posting above. There is another type of saker similar to the supposedly hybrid type in Rafael's posting . The bedouin in Kuwait brought these into the WP. before commercial captive breeding became common place. Sporting a jess or not I discounted all my own saker records as a result.
The bare part colourings in the OP bird are the only concrete points that make me think of gyr and note how close they are to the Tunnicliffe. I am surprised given the amount of detailed differences now published in specialist guides between the two in flight, more has not been made of this by those with more recent experience. The plain, unmarked upperparts to me suggest saker and perhaps all true gyr falcons should have those paler markings on the upperparts like in the Tunnicliffe drawing?
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Old Thursday 1st March 2018, 12:06   #45
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One of the falconry guys just sent me this message;

"I have two more votes on pure Gyr. One is from one of the largest Gyrfalcon breeders in the US he said in 30 years breeding he has produced 2 that color. Second is from head field biologist from The Peregrine Fund. Still waiting on the PhDs to get back to me."
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