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What's this big falcon from Hokkaido, Japan?

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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 08:23   #1
HokkaidoStu
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What's this big falcon from Hokkaido, Japan?

I don't want to prejudice people's views so I'm not going to say what this was identified as.

What do you think it is?

All shots are of the same bird, taken in Hokkaido in early 2014 over 3 or 4 months.

Any opinions appreciated.
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 08:43   #2
tconzemi
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looks good for Gyr to my eyes but no idea what else occurs in Hokkaido
no flight pictures?
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 08:50   #3
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Gyr
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 08:54   #4
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A flight shot
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 09:12   #5
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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.............
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 09:37   #6
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Looks fine for Gyr to me too, although I've not seen such a washed out looking individual. Immature Gyr Falcons can be very tame too so that doesn't necesarily count against it.
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 09:50   #7
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Thanks Edward..........
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 19:49   #8
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Quote:
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.............
The first thing that struck me on seeing these photos was the fact that the freshly grown (supposedly adult-type wing coverts) look much like the juvenile abraded ones also present (seen most clearly on the last photo, that was thus probably taken at a later date than some of the others).

This made me scratch my head and conclude that it indeed had to be a hybrid Gyr x Saker the latter species being the only large falcon where the adult scapulars and coverts look much like the juvenile ones.

The picture you link to also show this feature as named bird is in moult from juv to (first) adult plumage as well.

Below is a typical adult Gyr upperside where the wing coverts aren't merely brown with a narrow pale edge, but show some horizontal pale markings too.

Peter


https://www.google.dk/search?q=gyrfa...t7cQyuPVxVLBM:


Ps the heavily worn tail (rarely seen on falcons in the wild, even as late in the year as "5 minutes to moulting") of your bird also strongly suggests a past in captivity

Last edited by P.Sunesen : Monday 12th February 2018 at 22:09.
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 23:19   #9
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Thanks for the detailed reply. The general opinion on here and on our birding Japan facebook group seems to be it is a wild Gyr but there are 1 or 2 who think otherwise.

Guess I'll have to find a real white one to dispel any doubts.........
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Old Monday 12th February 2018, 23:42   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Thanks for the detailed reply. The general opinion on here and on our birding Japan facebook group seems to be it is a wild Gyr but there are 1 or 2 who think otherwise.

Guess I'll have to find a real white one to dispel any doubts.........
I hereby challenge the majority (the supporters for a genuine Gyr) to shows just ten, all right, then just ONE photo of a first adult plumage Gyr with wing coverts similar to the newly grown ones on the wing of this 2.cy moulting falcon.

What was the arguments presented for pure Gyr on the Japanese Facebook group?

Here we see none.

On the contrary we hear that one "never saw such a washed out individual".
And then there's the damaged tail, showing that ALL tail feathers have the outer several centimetres broken off.......

And it was "tame"....

Wonderful if we could learn something new about Gyr Falcons, so I'm all ears and ready to stand corrected

Peter

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 00:27   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Thanks for the detailed reply. The general opinion on here and on our birding Japan facebook group seems to be it is a wild Gyr but there are 1 or 2 who think otherwise.

Guess I'll have to find a real white one to dispel any doubts.........
Unfortunately, scientific conclusion is not a matter of democracy

Peter is clearly right here, this beautiful bird has a Saker among the parents.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 00:31   #12
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Maybe I was right to have some doubts then..........

Quote:
Originally Posted by P.Sunesen View Post
What was the arguments presented for pure Gyr on the Japanese Facebook group?



Peter
One person's opinion was "Gyr for me..1st winter bird.

Overall uniform coloration & blue bare part coloration a good indicator I think."

I'm no expert at all but after seeng the pic of the hybrid and recalling the bird I saw 4 years ago the doubts set in right away.

I'm surprised no local brders raised the possibility of a hybrid at the time. It was featured in many Japanese birding magazines and was seen by many famous Japanese birders including one who has written a well respected ID guide to Japanese birds.

At the time I noted the tameness of the bird and its tatty tail feathers but thought the bird simply wasn't familiar with humans and it was just moulting.

Were we all wrong then?

There was a pair of adults that spent about 10 winters at the same location (sadly just before I moved to Japan) and last winter another adult visited just for one day (one person was lucky enough to get photos). So they do occur.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 00:51   #13
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
Were we all wrong then?
It surely can happen. Here's (also here) one famous case.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 01:13   #14
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Some more photos, maybe they add something.............
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 06:47   #15
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And more photos of a similar looking bird identified as a Gyrfalcon in North America.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 10:56   #16
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Hi all,
thanks for this clarity Peter. Do you exclude a pure Altai Falcon?
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 13:10   #17
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Hi all,
thanks for this clarity Peter. Do you exclude a pure Altai Falcon?
Isn't Altai Falcon also a mix or Gyr and Saker (more Saker than Gyr)? I understood that, whatever it is a valid taxon or not, it is somehow an intermediate between the two... could it be distinguishable from hybrids of captive origin?
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 14:17   #18
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What's this birds likely origin then, is Falconry a thing in Japan or has this occured naturally in the wild?



A
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 14:35   #19
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Some info on Altai Falcon here (and references).

The broken tail tip is still, regardless of the bird identity, an important argument against a natural origin. I think it wouldn't make it through any rarities committee.

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 14:57   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
What's this birds likely origin then, is Falconry a thing in Japan or has this occured naturally in the wild?



A
I've emailed the Japanese Falconers Association asking them their opinion of this bird and also if they know of any escapees from that time. Their webpage didn't look like it had been updated for a while though so I may get no reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RafaelMatias View Post
Some info on Altai Falcon here (and references).

The broken tail tip is still, regardless of the bird identity, an important argument against a natural origin. I think it wouldn't make it through any rarities committee.
At the risk of sounding stupid, I'm genuinely curious.............why are the broken tail tips a sure sign of captivity?

Japan doesn't have a rarities commitee AFAIK. As I said above this bird was seen by many birders from all over Japan and nobody to my knowledge questioned the original ID of an immature Gyrfalcon.

The bird in question was around for almost 5 months. It didn't return the subsequent winter.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 15:02   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
What's this birds likely origin then, is Falconry a thing in Japan or has this occured naturally in the wild?



A
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.
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 15:03   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
I've emailed the Japanese Falconers Association asking them their opinion of this bird and also if they know of any escapees from that time. Their webpage didn't look like it had been updated for a while though so I may get no reply.



At the risk of sounding stupid, I'm genuinely curious.............why are the broken tail tips a sure sign of captivity?

Japan doesn't have a rarities commitee AFAIK. As I said above this bird was seen by many birders from all over Japan and nobody to my knowledge questioned the original ID of an immature Gyrfalcon.

The bird in question was around for almost 5 months. It didn't return the subsequent winter.
It's often a sign of captivity, having been kept in a confined space which causes damage to the tail.


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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 15:10   #23
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It's often a sign of captivity, having been kept in a confined space which causes damage to the tail.


A
Again, forgive me but another dumb question, would it still be damaged after 5 months (at least) in the 'wild'? I've seen many wild birds with tatty feathers during moult.................
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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 16:19   #24
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Again, forgive me but another dumb question, would it still be damaged after 5 months (at least) in the 'wild'? I've seen many wild birds with tatty feathers during moult.................
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

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Old Tuesday 13th February 2018, 17:02   #25
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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?
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