Wild Things: Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis)

Photo by James Taulman

Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). This large hawk of the prairie and desert country is considered in a threatened status. Through loss of suitable habitat and shooting mortality, the population has declined to the point that currently there are estimated to be no more than 4,000 pairs alive. 

But we may often see an individual perched on a power pole or soaring out along a prairie road east of the mountains. The bright white breast and belly, sometimes spotted, contrast with the brown to rusty back.

These hawks prey on rabbits, ground squirrels, mice and other mammals, as well as snakes, birds and some large insects. Both sexes may incubate the 2 to 6 eggs, though the female spends more time on the nest and the male will bring her food, which she will feed to the chicks after they hatch.

Young fly after about 5 to 7 weeks. Nests are normally built high in trees or other structures and materials include sticks and smaller debris. Animal bones and dung may also be added to the nests, which are reused and become larger over the years.

James Taulman is a semi-retired research wildlife biologist, having worked with the U.S. Forest Service research branch and taught zoology, ecology, and other courses in several university positions. He is currently living in the East Mountains, and explores natural areas observing native wildlife and conducting independent research projects.

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