Movements of juvenile Gyrfalcons from western and interior Alaska following departure from their natal areas

Journal of Raptor Research

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Juvenile raptors often travel thousands of kilometers from the time they leave their natal areas to the time they enter a breeding population. Documenting movements and identifying areas used by raptors before they enter a breeding population is important for understanding the factors that influence their survival. In North America, juvenile Gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus) are routinely observed outside the species' breeding range during the nonbreeding season, but the natal origins of these birds are rarely known. We used satellite telemetry to track the movements of juvenile Gyrfalcons during their first months of independence. We instrumented nestlings with lightweight satellite transmitters within 10 d of estimated fledging dates on the Seward Peninsula in western Alaska and in Denali National Park (Denali) in interior Alaska. Gyrfalcons spent an average of 41.4 ± 6.1 d (range  =  30–50 d) in their natal areas after fledging. The mean departure date from natal areas was 27 August ± 6.4 d. We tracked 15 individuals for an average of 70.5 ± 28.1 d post-departure; Gyrfalcons moved from 105 to 4299 km during this period and tended to move greater distances earlier in the tracking period than later in the tracking period. Gyrfalcons did not establish temporary winter ranges within the tracking period. We identified several movement patterns among Gyrfalcons, including unidirectional long-distance movements, multidirectional long- and short-distance movements, and shorter movements within a local region. Gyrfalcons from the Seward Peninsula remained in western Alaska or flew to eastern Russia with no movements into interior Alaska. In contrast, Gyrfalcons from Denali remained in interior Alaska, flew to northern and western Alaska, or flew to northern Alberta. Gyrfalcons from both study areas tended to move to coastal, riparian, and wetland areas during autumn and early winter. Because juvenile Gyrfalcons dispersed over a large geographic area and across three international boundaries, conservation efforts should focus on both regional and international scales.

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Journal Article
Movements of juvenile Gyrfalcons from western and interior Alaska following departure from their natal areas
Series title:
Journal of Raptor Research
Year Published:
The Raptor Research Foundation, Inc.
Contributing office(s):
Alaska Science Center
11 p.
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