The Ferruginous Hawk is a large regal
(Buteo regalis!) hawk of open western
prairies. They are the largest of the "Buteo" Hawks. In historic
times, the nest of the Ferruginous Hawk often used both bison bones in the
structure and bison dung as part of a lining. They are a species that
seems less shy of human beings than some other Buteo hawks. They will
often allow for a relatively close approach (hence, the large number of photos I
Habitat: Grassland, sagebrush plains, rangeland, desert.
Diet: Mostly small mammals, including ground
squirrels, jackrabbits, gophers, rabbits, and mice. Also eats some
birds and reptiles.
Behavior: Generally hunts while soaring, or by
observing from a perch. It can also often be seen sitting on the
ground, where sometimes it will wait by a gopher or prairie dog hole for
prey to surface.
Nesting: April through June in South Dakota.
Most nests are built in trees, but they will also sometimes nest on cliffs or on
the ground. The nest is a large structure of built of sticks, lined with
softer material. They will use cow dung (or traditionally, bison dung) to
line the nest. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs, and both parents help to
incubate them. Upon hatching, the female initially stays with the young
while the male hunts for food and brings it back to the nest. As the
chicks get older, both parents will hunt for food.
Song: Harsh key-ahh, or kaah-kaah.
Migration: Generally a short-distance
migrant, with some birds at the northern end of it's normal range migrating
southward in the winter.
Similar Species: Depending on morph and
age, can be confused with the Red-Tailed Hawk
or the Rough-Legged Hawk.
Conservation Status: Ferruginous Hawks have
disappeared or plummeted in number in much of their former range, primarily due
to habitat loss. However, overall populations remain relatively strong,
and they are found over a wide geographic region. The
IUCN lists them as a species of "Least Concern".
South Dakota "Hotspot": My
favorite location to find them are around prairie dog towns on the Fort
Pierre National Grasslands.
Photo Information: November 27th, 2011 -
Fort Pierre National
Grasslands in South Dakota - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Ferruginous Hawk photos.