Radar is a male gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), pronounced
"jeer-falcon," and prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) hybrid.
Unlike all of the other birds in the club, Radar was born in captivity.
For the first ten years of his life, he was owned and flown by a devoted
falconer, but in 2008 was attacked by another bird being kept by the
falconer at the time. The other bird attempted to pull Radar
underneath the door of his enclosure, in the process scalping Radar and
damaging his right wing severely enough that he can no longer fly well
enough to hunt. The falconer, unable to give him the care he now
requires, surrendered him to the club.
Hybrid falcons are exceptionally rare in the wild, although they have been
spotted occasionally. Much more commonly, hybrids are a result of
humans crossing two species for use in the hunting sport of falconry, which
is the act of catching live prey using trained raptors. Hybrids are
most often made in an attempt to maximize traits specific to different
species, such as speed, loyalty, size, hardiness, and the passion to pursue
Prairie falcons are native to the western part of North America, and are
close in size to the peregrine falcon. They can be easily
distinguished from peregrines, as prairie falcons are a sandy brown on the
back, and the same sandy color mottled with white on their fronts, while
peregrines are a distinctive blue-gray color. In flight, a distinctive
dark "wing pit" area distinguishes prairie falcons from the others.
Like all falcons, prairies have malar stripes, long pointed wings, dark
eyes, a falcon’s tooth on each side of the beak, and specialized bones in
the nostril that assist with breathing during dives.
Prey consists of birds, which are caught in midair, and small mammals.
Prairie falcons are highly versatile hunters, and will attack in several
different ways at many different kinds of prey. Their hunting style is
primarily to skim at high speed roughly about a meter from the ground,
hoping to flush quarry, which they will then pursue using a range of attack
styles. Like the peregrine falcon, they can attack from a stoop dive,
but this is less common.
Prairie falcons nest on flat ledges in medium to high cliff faces, which
they prefer to be facing south or southwest. When looking for prairie
falcons, the presence of whitewash (from the mutes, or feces, of the bird)
on the cliff face and blowflies (accumulated around discarded food) will
indicate birds in residence.
Gyrfalcons are the largest falcon in the world, comparable in size to large
red-tailed hawks, and can be found in the northern and near-arctic parts of
the US and Canada, Europe and Asia. Like many other raptor species,
gyrfalcons can be variable in coloration, some individuals being nearly
black and others nearly white. More commonly, they are a heavily
spotted dark gray down the back with dark gray speckles on the front.
The farther north they are found, the lighter in color they tend to be.
Gyrfalcons prefer to live in open tundra and mountains, with a few trees and
cliffs. They prefer to hunt in open areas with a few trees, and typical
quarry consists of medium sized birds such as ptarmigan, grouse, pheasants,
ducks, and geese, although they can and will take rabbits and snowshoe hares
in a pinch. They are extremely tenacious hunters, and will chase their
quarry upwards of several miles before giving up.
Gyrfalcons are one of the most traditional birds used in falconry, and are
the most highly prized, both in days past and today. They were so valuable
that they were given as gifts to heads of states and kings, and were used to
pay ransom on kidnapped nobles. For example: during the crusades
in 1396, the Duke of Burgundy's son was ransomed for twelve Greenland
gyrfalcons; also during the crusades, King Richard the Lionhearted took his
birds with him, and when he was captured part of his ransom was two of his
white gyrfalcons. Gyrfalcons were and are prized for their size,
ability and willingness to take large and useful prey, and their sheer power