Ferruginous Hawk perched on post

57 Ferruginous Hawk Interesting Facts (Photos, ID & Info)

The Ferruginous Hawk is a beautiful, large bird of prey, that is native to North America and Mexico. In this article, we will explore 57 Ferruginous Hawk interesting facts with photos, ID & info on how to identify them or for educational purposes.

Overview of the Ferruginous Hawk

  • Identification: There are two color forms: Light morph individuals have a light gray head, cheeks, neck, breast and belly, with a chestnut colored back, shoulders, wings and V-shaped leggings. They also have some chestnut colored spots under the wing. Dark morph individuals have a darker plumage throughout. 
  • Length: 22.1-27.2 in (56-69 cm).
  • Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz (977-2074 g).
  • Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in (133-142 cm).
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Buteo
  • Species: B. regalis
  • Binomial Name: Buteo regalis (George Robert Gray: 1844)
  • Scientific Name: Buteo regalis
  • Range: The Ferruginous Hawk lives throughout the Western United States (eastern Washington north to southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba; east to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; south to New Mexico and Arizona; and west to California and Oregon) and Southwestern Canada, with its range extending south into Northern Mexico. The largest populations are found on the Great Plains region of central North America, where they live alongside other birds such as prairie chickens and hens.
  • Fall Migration: (September through to October)This species migrates south to Central America for winter where it lives in humid rainforests or dense dry forests near water sources.
  • Spring Migration: They usually head back north from late March through early April.
  • Habitat: They live mostly in open country with low vegetation such as prairies, grasslands, scrublands or deserts where they can hunt for small mammals like rabbits and mice that form their diet.
  • Diet: Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as rodents, ground squirrels, and rabbits; they also eat lizards, snakes, insects and birds (particularly nestlings). 
  • Global extent of occurrence:  4,330,000 km2  (1671822.346 sq mi.).
  • Global Breeding Population: est. 80,000.
  • Conservation Status: Listed as Least Concern (Population is increasing).
  • Lifespan: In the Wild: Between 8-23 years of age. – In Captivity: Over 30 years of age.
  • Breeding Period: March through April.
  • Incubation Duration: 32-33 days.
  • Nestling Duration: 38-50 days.
  • Chicks Fledge: 45-50 days.
  • Clutch Size: 2-8 eggs. 
  • Number of Broods: 1 brood per year.
  • Egg Color: Buff with brown spots.
  • Nesting Habits: Ferruginous Hawks typically nest in forests, woodlands and swamps. The male and female choose a nest site together such as a crow or previous hawk nests. They use a wide variety of structures for nesting, including cliffs, trees, utility structures, farm buildings, abandoned farm machinery, haystacks and artificial platforms up to 25 meters high.

Once the nest site is chosen they will gather nest materials such as twigs, sagebrush stems, plastic, scrap metal, sticks, and sometimes bison bones and bison dung. The average nest size is three feet across by three feet high. The female will then lay two to eight eggs per clutch, with the males taking turns incubating them for about 40 days before hatching.

Once the young hatch, weak, and with their eyes closed, and covered in down. The female stays with the eyas (hatchling) at first, and the male will hunt and provide food during this period, while the female feeds it to the eyas. After about three weeks, both parents begin hunting again.

The young begin to hop from branch to branch and examine their surroundings outside the nest at 38 days, and will start to fly at about the 45-50 day mark. Chicks will stay on their parents’ territory for up to two months until self-dependent.

Image by Steve Crowhurst from Pixabay

Ferruginous Hawk Interesting Facts

  • The ferruginous hawk is a largest and heaviest hawk that is native to the North American continent.
  • The Ferruginous Hawk can be found in Alaska, Canada, Arizona, Montana and New Mexico.
  • They have a wingspan of 5 feet and can be 2 feet tall and weigh up to 4.5 pounds.
  • Ferruginous hawks are sexually dimorphic, meaning females are larger than males.
  • Ferruginous hawks have a horizontal speed of between 20 and 40 mph, and can reach speeds of 150 mph when diving for prey.
  • Male and female Ferruginous Hawks have the same plumage. Both male and female birds of this species are chestnut brown with white on their undersides.
  • The Ferruginous Hawk is a bird of prey found in North America. In Canada, it breeds from British Columbia to Labrador and from Alaska east to Quebec. This raptor’s breeding distribution range covers 10% of the global total.
  • Most ferruginous hawks will sexually mature at about 2 years of age.
  • The oldest Ferruginous Hawk on record was almost 24 years old, and was discovered in Nevada in 2006. 
  • The ferruginous hawk’s plumage has rust-colored feathers, which is where it gets its name “ferruginous” from.
  • Ferruginous hawks are monogamous and mate for life. They mate with only one partner their entire lives, and they spend most of their time together. This monogamy helps to ensure that both parents take care of the young. The male takes on a majority of hunting responsibilities, while the female watches over the nest and feeds the chicks.
  • Like all members of the Accipitridae family, they have excellent hearing, allowing them to hear better at points of high activity such as a brush pile. This is called variable hearing, and allows them to locate prey quicker and create more effective hunting tactics.
  • In addition to their ability to detect prey quickly, they also have excellent eyesight. They are able to spot prey up to 3 miles away.
Ferruginous Hawk being used for falconry
Image by reitz27 from Pixabay
  • When it comes to flight, ferruginous hawks are able to glide for up to 200 feet on only one wing beat. 
  • They do not build nests from scratch, but rather they use old ones that may have been built by other birds or even on the ground if they find no other alternative. 
  • The nest is usually made of small twigs and lined with bark, grasses and pine needles.
  • Each pair of birds will usually lay between 2-8 eggs each year.
  • Ferruginous hawks tend to have a smaller range of movement than other types of hawks due to their larger size.
  • Courting pairs perform these elaborate aerial mating rituals. Pairs of birds will perform sky dances in order to signal the start of mating season. This courting behavior usually occurs in mid-April and lasts for a few weeks. The courtship ritual is done with pairs soaring high into the air and then spiraling downward, clench talons and beaks. The male will dive and rise back up over and over again, while the female may appear to reject him at first before eventually joining him in their sky dance.
  • A ferruginous hawk can capture and kill prey, such as rabbits and mice, within two minutes of catching sight of them.
  • The most common call given by a ferruginous hawk has been recorded as high-pitched “kwit, kwit, kwit” sounds at one second intervals followed by a low “chirrup” sound at one second intervals.
  • During breeding season, a pair of Ferruginous Hawks can consume an average of 500 burrowing squirrels.
  • They are found in very large, open areas including prairies, savannas, grasslands, alpine tundra and the open woodland.
  • Some birds, depending on their location, are not migratory because they can easily breed where they are located.
  • They are still considered to be an endangered species, although their population is increasing.
  • The ferruginous hawk has an incredible talon grip strength of 400 psi, and it is activated when the pads on the bird’s feet touch prey. Almost like a spring, the sharp 3″ inch talons clench hard and pierce right into the preys flesh and bone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are ferruginous hawks rare?

Ferruginous Hawks are rare. This is not because they are hard to find, but rather because of their low population density. They have a relatively small range, so there are fewer opportunities for them to be seen by people. 

What eats ferruginous hawks?

Golden eagles are not the only predators of ferruginous hawks. There are at least five different types of animals that also prey on ferruginous hawks: great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, kit foxes and badgers. The most significant findings in this study were that kit foxes kill the most number of ferruginous hawks.

What’s the largest hawk in Texas?

The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest hawk in Texas.  It can grow up to 2 feet tall, with a wingspan of 4.5 feet wide, and a weight of 4 pounds. This species of hawk lives mainly in desert habitats, and can be found in southern parts of the United States all the way to northern Mexico. 

Are ferruginous hawks carnivores?

Ferruginous hawks are carnivores. They eat rodents, snakes, birds and other small animals that they can catch on the ground or in the air. Ferruginous hawks also eat carrion (dead animals). 

What is the most powerful hawk in the world?

The ferruginous hawk is the most powerful bird of prey in North America. This predator is so fierce that it’s able to hunt animals such as rabbits, squirrels, and other birds up to four times its size. The ferruginous hawk also has talons that are almost three inches long and sharp enough to pierce through flesh or bone with ease.


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