Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis)

Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:   

General Information

Ferruginous Hawks are very large, broad-winged hawks with two distinguished types of plumage referred to as light morphs and dark morphs. Light morph Ferruginous Hawks are distinguishable by their white under parts with intermingled gray or brownish speckling, and a dark brownish V on the underside directly in front of the tail. Dark morphs are distinguishable by their lightly tails and upper and lower primaries. The rest of their bodies are dark brown. Males and females have similar plumage. However, females are slightly larger and tend to have slightly darker coloring on their legs and belly (Bechard and Schmutz 1995).

Life History information provided for the Ferruginous Hawk is summarized from the Birds of North America Online (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/).

References Cited in Species Profile

  • Bakker, K. K. 2005. South Dakota All Bird Conservation Plan. South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Wildlife Division Report 2005-09.
  • Bechard, Marc J. and Josef K. Schmutz. 1995. Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/172
  • Dechant, J. A., M. L. Sondreal, D. H. Johnson, L. D. Igl, C. M. Goldade, A. L. Zimmerman, and B. R. Euliss. 1999 (revised 2002). Effects of management practices on grassland birds: Ferruginous hawk. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND. 23 pages.
  • Goodrich, L.J., and J.P. Smith. 2008. Raptor migration in North America. Pp. 37-149 in K.L. Bildstein, J.P. Smith, E. Ruelas Inzunza, and R.R. Veit (eds.), State of North America's birds of prey Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, MA, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C
  • Wheeler, B.K., C.M. White and J.M. Economidy. 2003. Raptors of Western North America: The Wheeler Guide.

  • States/US Territories in which the Ferruginous hawk, Wherever found is known to or is believed to occur:  Colorado
  • US Counties in which the Ferruginous hawk, Wherever found is known to or is believed to occur:  View All
  • Countries in which the the Ferruginous hawk, Wherever found is known to occur:  Canada, Mexico
  • Additional species information
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
Mountain-Prairie Region (Region 6) Wherever found

» Federal Register Documents

Federal Register Documents
Date Citation Page Title
1994-11-15 00:00:00.0 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
2003-08-27 00:00:00.0 68 FR 51589 51591 Availability of Threemile Canyon Farms Multispecies Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, and Related Draft Environmental Assessment, Morrow and Gilliam Counties, Oregon
1982-12-30 00:00:00.0 47 FR 58454 58460 Review of Vertebrate Wildlife for Listing as End. or Thr. Species
1985-09-18 00:00:00.0 50 FR 37958 37967 Review of Vertebrate Wildlife; Notice of Review; 50 FR 37958-37967
1992-08-19 00:00:00.0 57 FR 37507 ETWP; Notice of 90-Day Finding on Petition to List Ferruginous Hawk; 57 FR 37507
1991-11-21 00:00:00.0 56 FR 58804 58836 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species; 56 FR 58804 58836
2002-01-14 00:00:00.0 67 FR 1781 Threemile Canyon Farms Multi-Species Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances
1983-06-14 00:00:00.0 48 FR 27273 27274 Findings on Certain Petitions; 48 FR 27273-27274
1989-01-06 00:00:00.0 54 FR 554 579 ETWP; Animal Notice of Review; 54 FR 554 579

» Recovery

No recovery information is available for the Ferruginous hawk.

» Critical Habitat

No critical habitat rules have been published for the Ferruginous hawk.

» Conservation Plans

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more)
HCP Plan Summaries
Cal. Dept. of Corrections Statewide Electrified Fence Project
Kern Water Bank
Lake Mathews
MSCP, City of Chula Vista Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of La Mesa Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of Poway Subarea Plan
MSCP, City of San Diego Subarea Plan
MSCP, County of San Diego Subarea Plan
North Peak Development Project
San Diego Gas & Electric
Western Riverside MSHCP (One permit w/ 22 permittees)
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA): (learn more)
CCAA Plan Summaries
4W Ranch, Harshbarger
Three Mile Canyon Farms Multi Species CCAA

» Petitions

» Life History

Habitat Requirements

Ideal habitat for Ferruginous Hawks is grassland and shrub-steppe habitat including pastures, hayland and cropland (Dechant et al. 1999, p. 2). Ferruginous Hawk nests can be found in trees and large shrubs and on roofs, utility structures and artificial platforms, or near the ground on river cutbanks, or less frequently other ground locations such as rockpiles and riverbed mounds (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 125).

Food Habits

Ferruginous Hawk population density is largely dependent upon prey available which consists of mostly ground squirrels in the central grassland region, followed by pocket gophers and white-tailed jack rabbits (Dechant et al. 1999, p. 5). Ferruginous Hawks also feed frequently on prairie dogs and other burrowing animals (Bakker 2005, p. 36). Ferruginous Hawks are often perching hunters who launch directly at their prey from elevated perches or the ground (Wheeler 2003, p. 372). Aerial capture consists of low, nearly ground-skimming powered and gliding flight with a swoop upwards and angled dive to capture prey. Ferruginous Hawks may also dive from high or low altitude gliding or soaring to attack prey. Active flight consists of a combination of soaring interspersed with powered, slow flapping flight (Wheeler 2003, p. 373).

Movement / Home Range

Ferruginous Hawks generally breed in western North America from southern Canada between the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. The year round range of Ferruginous Hawks occurs in the areas of eastern Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Wintering ranges include most of California, central and southwestern Colorado, southern Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, southwestern Nebraska, western Kansas and Oklahoma and a good portion of Texas and down into Mexico (Bechard and Schmutz 1995). Ferruginous Hawks are medium distance migrants that travel individually or in small groups. Northern populations tend to migrate more than southern populations, and migrants do not tend to follow leading or diversion lines. Instead, they demonstrate complex migration patterns such as loop migration. Fall migration begins in August and September and their migration from Alberta Canada takes them east of the Continental Divide and south through the Great Plains including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska following grassland habitat on their way to their wintering grounds in New Mexico (Goodrich and Smith 2008, p. 125).

Reproductive Strategy

Ferruginous Hawks begin nesting in the northern United States around April, and around March in the southern to mid-latitudes. Nests are built primarily in trees and shrubs followed by cliffs, utility structures and ground outcrops; although Ferruginous Hawks have also been known to utilize haystacks adjacent to hay fields, transmission towers, and some abandoned farmsteads. Many Ferruginous Hawks will nest in artificial nest structures. Ferruginous Hawks generally prefer elevated areas for nest sites, but tend to nest the lowest of all the Buteos. Clutch sizes is from 2-4 eggs, but can range up to 8 depending on prey abundance. The nest is attended almost constantly by the female with the male in charge of hunting and guarding the nest. Hatchlings are altricial and very sensitive to sun and heat. About 3 weeks after eggs hatch, the female will leave the nest to begin hunting, and detachment from the chicks is very gradual. Young typically fledge between 38 and 50 days after hatching, with males fledging slightly earlier than females. Young typically still remain dependent on parents for several weeks after fledging (Bechard and Schmutz 1995).


Energy, agricultural and other types of human disturbance and development in the Great Plains in particular have greatly reduced the breeding areas and winter prey for the Ferruginous Hawk. In Canada, prevention of grassland forest has increased the encroachment of aspen parkland into the prairies resulting in a reduction of Ferruginous Hawk habitat (Wheeler 2003, p. 373).

» Other Resources

NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.