Creature Features

Description                                                                                                                                                                                        Though Ferruginous Hawks are named for the ferruginous (rust color) on its wings, this species actually comes in two different color morphs. Light morph individuals have palish grey heads, rufous colored barring on the breast, rust-colored thighs, and grey and rufous wings. Dark morph individuals are generally dark all over. All Ferruginous Hawks have a large head and a distinctively wide gape.

Diet                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mostly small to medium-sized mammals. Feeds on most readily available small prey, such as young jackrabbits, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, etc. Also eats birds, snakes and large insects.

Nesting                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pairs may circle high above nesting territory, calling. Nest site is usually in top of a tree. 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. 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.

Fun Facts

  • Other Names: Ferruginous Rough-Leg
  • Scientific Name: Buteo regalis
  • Conservation Status: Threatened
  • Lifespan: up to 20 years
  • Body Length: 22 to 27 inches
  • Wingspan: 52 to 55 inches
  • Weight: 34 to 73 ounces
  •  Incubation: 32 to 33 days
  •  Number of eggs: 2 to 4, sometimes up to 6 or more.
  •  Habitat: Open spaces of the West, in grasslands, prairie, sagebrush steppe, scrubland and pinyon-juniper woodland edges
  • Distribution: North America

Did You Know? 

Ferruginous hawks and rough-legged hawks (plus golden eagle) are the only American hawks to have feathered legs all the way down to their toes. Ferruginous means rust-colored, and refers to the reddish back and legs of light-morph birds.