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The latin name for Ferruginous Hawks is Buteo regalis, which roughly translates to “regal hawk.” They certainly have a regal appearance to them.
These are the largest of all North American hawks, weighing up to nearly five pounds. One of these is about 1 1/2 times the size of a Red-tailed Hawk. A Ferruginous Hawk has an eagle-like appearance although a Bald Eagle or a Golden Eagle would be about twice the size, or larger, than one of these birds. Ferruginous Hawks have heads that seem to be oversize in proportion to their bodies and huge mouths or “gapes” that add to their eagle-like appearance. They get their common name of “ferruginous” from their rusty-colored backs and outer wings. This dorsal view shows the rusty plumage quite clearly. These birds are winter migrants to southern Arizona, spending their summers on the northern plains.
These birds are anything but regal despite their appearance. They are, in fact, quite timid in the presence of humans and not at all aggressive towards other bird species. They specialize in hunting rodents. And, unlike some raptors, such as Peregrine Falcons, Cooper’s Hawks or even the tiny American Kestrels, these birds seem to have a live and let live attitude about other birds in their vicinity. I’ve never seen a Ferruginous Hawk attempt to drive off an interloper.
The Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum has a Ferruginous Hawk in its raptor free flight program. It is a huge and utterly beautiful bird. But, it is also a wimp that is easily upset and that has a strong aversion to flying on windy days. Appearances can be deceiving it seems.
The first image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture preferred setting, ISO 500, f5.6 @ 1/1600. The second image made with a Canon 5D iii, 400 DO +1.4X Extender, aperture preferred setting, ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/500.