email a friend
printable version
Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.70,000 individuals which equates to 46,700 mature individuals (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2013). The European population is estimated at 1,100-1,900 pairs, which equates to 2,200-3,900 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 13% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 16,900-30,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. It is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The overall trend is likely to be stable. This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (311% increase over 40 years, equating to a 42.4% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. In Europe the population trend size is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International 2015). The Russian population trend is also thought to be relatively stable (Russia constitutes approximately 37% of the species's total range) (Potapov 2011).

The species is threatened by the collection of eggs and young for the falconry market (Tucker and Heath 1994) with an unknown number collected each year within Europe (White et al. 2013). Some 1,000-2,000 birds are thought to be killed annually by trappers in Siberia (White et al. 2013). Illegal shooting also occurs in some areas such as Norway and Sweden. In parts of Fennoscandia, intensive hunting of grouse (Tucker and Heath 1994), such as Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) may affect numbers of this species. In the past, Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) trapping was the main threat in Russia (Potapov 2011). Disturbance of nests through tourism is also a problem (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). The species is also threatened by climate change (Booms et al. 2011). It was not affected by organochlorines in the 1960s and 1970s (White et al. 2013), however it was found to contain very high levels of organochlorines which probably derive from marine prey (ólafsdóttir et al. 2001).

Ólafsdóttir, K., Petersen, Æ., Magnúsdóttir, E.V., Björnsson, T. and Jóhannesson, T. 2001. Persistent organochlorine levels in six prey species of the gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus in Iceland. Environmental Pollution 112: 245-251.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Hagemeijer, E.J.M. and Blair, M.J. 1997. The EBCC atlas of European breeding birds: their distribution and abundance. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Partners in Flight Science Committee. 2013. Population Estimates Database, version 2013. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2015).

Potapov, E. 2011. Gyrfalcons in Russia: current status and conservation problems. In: Watson, R.T., Cade, T.J., Fuller, M., Hunt, G. and Potapov, E. (eds), Gyrfalcons and ptarmigan in a changing world. Vol. II, pp. 191-196. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, ID.

Rich, T.D.; Beardmore, C.J.; Berlanga, H.; Blancher, P.J.; Bradstreet, M.S.W.; Butcher, G.S.; Demarest, D.W.; Dunn, E.H.; Hunter, W.C.; Inigo-Elias, E.E.; Martell, A.M.; Panjabi, A.O.; Pashley, D.N.; Rosenberg, K.V.; Rustay, C.M.; Wendt, J.S.; Will, T.C. 2004. Partners in flight: North American landbird conservation plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.

Tucker, G.M. and Heath, M.F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

White, C.M., Kirwan, G.M. and Boesman, P. 2013. Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

International Action Plan

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Falco rusticolus. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Gyr falcon (Falco rusticolus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Falconidae (Falcons, Caracaras)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size 20000-49999 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 8,620,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment