First pre-modern record of the gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) in north-east greenland

Gina E. Moseley, Jørgen Rosvold, Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen, Irka Hajdas, Olivier Gilg, Kristian M. Gregersen, Christoph Spötl, R. Lawrence Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) is the largest falcon in the world. It inhabits a wide range of climate zones in the Northern Hemisphere, from boreal forests in the south of its range to the arid polar deserts of the High Arctic. In Greenland, because of the harsh, remote environments in which gyrfalcons live, research related to the contemporary and pre-modern periods has been limited to the north-west, central west and central east coasts, with no specific investigations being conducted for the north-east. Here, we report the first pre-modern record of a gyrfalcon in north-east Greenland, located at 80.4°N in Kronprins Christian Land. Skin tissue from a decaying gyrfalcon’s body was radiocarbon dated to 769–944 CE (common era) using a terrestrial-only calibration curve, and 1182–1456 CE using a marine-only calibration curve. Since the gyrfalcon has a mixed terrestrial/marine diet, the actual age can be said to belong between these two groups. This limited data, therefore places the presence of the gyrfalcon in north-east Greenland during a period of prolonged elevated temperatures and climate stress associated with the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Whether the gyrfalcon was part of a larger population or a straggler, and whether the species survived the whole of the Medieval Climate Anomaly in north-east Greenland, is unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3539
JournalPolar Research
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by funding from the Austrian Science Fund (project number T 710-NBL and Y 1162-N37) to GEM, the Austrian Academy of Sciences General Science Fund to GEM and the French Polar Institute (Program 1036 Interactions) to OG. In addition, the field-work was funded by many other bodies, as listed in the supplementary information.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 G.E. Moseley et al.


  • Arctic
  • Arctic Circle
  • Arctic ecology
  • Cave
  • Climate change
  • Geochronology


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