Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

This regal bird is the largest of our soaring Buteo hawks, a fitting raptor for the wide skies and windswept plains of the west. It soars with its broad wings held in a shallow V, and swoops down to catch ground squirrels, snakes, young jackrabbits, and other good-sized prey. It is often seen sitting on the ground in open fields. Except when nesting, the Ferruginous Hawk seems curiously unafraid of humans, often allowing close approach.
Conservation status Threatened. Has declined seriously over most of its range; current population may be fewer than 4,000 pairs. Causes of decline include shooting, loss of habitat.
Family Hawks and Eagles
Habitat Plains, prairies. Found at all seasons in very open and dry country. Inhabits dry grassland, sagebrush plains, saltbush and greasewood flats, rangeland, desert. In winter, also in agricultural country, including over plowed fields.
This regal bird is the largest of our soaring Buteo hawks, a fitting raptor for the wide skies and windswept plains of the west. It soars with its broad wings held in a shallow V, and swoops down to catch ground squirrels, snakes, young jackrabbits, and other good-sized prey. It is often seen sitting on the ground in open fields. Except when nesting, the Ferruginous Hawk seems curiously unafraid of humans, often allowing close approach.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, light morph
  • adult, dark morph
  • adult, light morph
  • adult, light morph
  • adult, light morph
  • adult, light morph
  • adult, dark morph
  • juvenile, light morph
Feeding Behavior

Hunts by watching for prey while soaring high, flying low, or from a raised perch. Sometimes waits on ground near active burrow of pocket gopher, then catches the rodent as it comes to surface.


Eggs

2-4, sometimes up to 6 or more. Pale bluish-white fading to white, usually marked with brown. Incubation is by both sexes but female does more, and male brings food to her. Incubation period 32-33 days. Young: Female remains with young at first; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 3 weeks, both parents hunt. Age of young at first flight about 40-50 days.


Young

Female remains with young at first; male brings food, female feeds it to young. After about 3 weeks, both parents hunt. Age of young at first flight about 40-50 days.

Diet

Mostly small to medium-sized mammals. Feeds on most readily available small prey, such as young jackrabbits, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, kangaroo rats; also cottontails, mice, others. Also eats birds, snakes, large insects.


Nesting

Pairs may circle high above nesting territory, calling. Nest site is usually in top of tree, 20-50' above ground, but can be as low as 6' (available trees may be very short). Sometimes nests on cliff or on ground. Nest is bulky structure of sticks and debris, lined with finer materials, including cow dung. Historically, some nests were built of bison bones and lined with bison dung. Nest may be reused and added to annually until it becomes huge.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly a short-distance migrant; some southern breeders may be permanent residents. Very rarely strays east of normal range.

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Migration

Mostly a short-distance migrant; some southern breeders may be permanent residents. Very rarely strays east of normal range.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A loud descending kree-e-ah.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Hawks and Eagles Hawk-like Birds

Ferruginous Hawk

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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