Ferruginous Hawk — First Of The Season

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Each autumn I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Ferruginous Hawks in our area.  I love to photograph these big hawks.  However, this year has been a disappointment.  I’ve visited all of the usual haunts where I can expect to find these birds, without any success in photographing one.  I’ve seen one or two Ferruginous Hawks, but always at too great a distance for me to make a decent image.

My luck changed yesterday.  A couple of friends advised me about a location to the northwest of the area where I usually take pictures, assuring me that Ferruginous Hawks were wintering there.  So, very early this morning Louisa and I made the relatively lengthy drive to that area.  We weren’t disappointed.  In a period of about three hours of cruising the local farm roads we spotted at least three of these hawks.

Ferruginous Hawks are truly spectacular.  These hawks — the largest in North America — can attain a body weight of about three and one half pounds (about 1.5 kg) and a wingspan of nearly five feet (about 1.5 meters).  That makes a Ferruginous Hawk about a third larger than a Red-tailed Hawk.  These hawks have gorgeous plumage, with their snowy breasts and rusty plumage on their backs, outer wings, and legs.  The latin name of these birds — Buteo regalis — translates to “regal hawk” and that is certainly apt. The English name, “Ferruginous” is also descriptive because “ferruginous” means “rusty.”

These hawks are secretive and quite timid around humans, despite their massive size.  Their summer breeding grounds comprise the United States’ northern prairies and Canada’s southern prairies.  These birds breed as far away from human activity as possible and will often abandon their nests if approached.  It is our great good fortune that some Ferruginous Hawks winter in Arizona.

In a few days I’ll post some images of another Ferruginous Hawk, one with plumage that differs from this bird’s plumage in some respects.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, M (auto ISO) setting, ISO 160, f5.6 @ 1/1600.


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