Bird watchers dream sighting happening in Mahoning County

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Birders lined up for a rare bird chase, looking for a gyrfalcon

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – There was a commotion Friday in western Mahoning County. Crowds were flocking to see a rare bird in the Valley.

Birders lined up for a rare bird chase, looking for a gyrfalcon.

Jen Brumfield, of Cleveland, saw the bird of prey Thursday along Calla Road. The bird has been on Wayne Greier’s property, and he saw it last week.

The call went out to other birders across multiple states.

“There’s a swarm of us in the area trying to track this bird down,” Brumfield said.

John Petruzzi of Canfield saw it, too.

“Took a dozen pictures of this impressive bird,” he said.

The gyrfalcon is also said to be the fastest flying bird in level flight, so it’s really just an impressive aerial hunter.

The last record of the gyrfalcon was in 1995 in Paulding County, near the Ohio-Indiana border.
Its normal habitat is over 2,000 miles away from Youngstown in the Arctic Circle.

“And this bird rarely ever comes down even into the lower 48. So for one to be in Ohio, that is absolutely exceptional,” Brumfield said.

The gyrfalcon likes open fields. It finds a perch, and there’s plenty of ducks and geese around in the wetlands as prey. It’s a much larger version of a peregrine falcon, just hard to track down.

“It can be really tricky even though it’s a massive bird. It can blend in quite well. You know, we don’t have a lot of color right now, so the bird is a beautifully ghostly grey color,” Brumfield said.

The birders say the habitat along Calla Road is perfect for this bird. Brumfield was glad she had the day off so she could try to see it again. It’s an opportunity that birders know is rare and one they don’t want to miss.

“I’ve seen one in Michigan, but I’ve not seen a gyrfalcon in Ohio, so I’d really like to add it to my Ohio list,” said Tyler McClain, of Cuyahoga Falls.

Brumfield hopes the bird stays around for a while, so there are more opportunities to see it.

“It could’ve been a one-day wonder. But we’re hoping still with the colder temps that it decides to stay around in the region for others to come and see,” she said.

The gyrfalcon is the largest of five falcons found in North America but certainly the rarest. It’s commonly ranked in the top 10 birds that bird watchers want to see the most.

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