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About Buteo Regalis, the Ferruginous Hawk


Ferruginous Hawks are the largest of the hawks soaring in North America. The adults are heavy, thick-set birds with broad powerful wings. Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks are the only hawks whose legs are feathered down to the toes. Adult female Ferruginous Hawks may be up to one third larger than adult males. Ferruginous hawks have a natural range in colour, from very dark to light. The name "ferruginous" comes from the Latin word ferrugo, meaning rust.

Ferruginous hawks are birds of open country. They occur in semiarid grasslands with scattered trees, rocky mounds or outcrops, and shallow canyons that overlook open valleys. They may occur along streams or in agricultural areas in migration. Along with Burrowing Owls, they are the only raptors (birds of prey) that use the grasslands as their main habitat. The large body and broad wings of Ferruginous Hawks are well adapted to soaring on thermal updrafts over the prairies or giving a rapid straight-a-way chase of prey animals. Ferruginous hawks rely primarily upon rodents found in their grassland ecosystems. Prey includes Richardson's ground squirrels, white-tailed jackrabbits, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, prairie dogs, and kangaroo rats. Other prey includes snakes, lizards, meadowlarks, grasshoppers, and crickets. Again, in southeastern Utah prairie dogs seem to be the main prey source. The birds tend to hunt in early morning or late afternoon. Birds hunt in four fashions: short distance strikes on prey from the ground, aerial hunting from low altitudes, aerial strikes from high altitudes (300 feet), and flying after prey from a perch.

 

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Photo Copyright D. Chalfant
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Ferruginous Hawk, Ruby Valley, NV
Copyright 1999, Don Baccus

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Photo Damian Fagan
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