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Cornell University

Gyrfalcon Research Continues Despite COVID-19 Hurdles

Researchers from The Peregrine Fund, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are studying how climate change is altering the threat of pathogens to Arctic specialists like Gyrfalcons. As temperatures warm, diseases that were once unable to survive the harsh weather conditions of the far north are now encroaching northward and could become a substantial problem for Gyrfalcons.

Our Gyrfalcon research team was unable to travel to their study site this summer due to COVID-19 but were able to safely make a special trip to Alaska this fall. Despite the COVID-19 setbacks, our team and their collaborators collected blood samples and conducted health screenings on wild Gyrfalcons. Samples were sent to Cornell University where extensive laboratory testing will help us better understand what diseases are present and what threats they may pose to the world’s largest falcon.

Researchers shown holding and releasing Gyrfalcons
Photos: Left, Michael Henderson of The Peregrine Fund releases a juvenile Gyrfalcon. Right, Travis Booms of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with two Gyrfalcons, a juvenile and an adult, that were caught within minutes of each other.

Excerpted from The Peregrine Fund's Notes from the Field: November 2020 e-newsletter.