Ferruginous Hawk — Season’s First

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Ferruginous Hawks — the largest of North America’s buteos — are seasonal residents, in very small numbers, in southern Arizona. A relative handful of them show up in mid-autumn and stick around until about the end of March before heading back north to the western plains of the northern United States and southern Canada.

They are magnificent birds. Most of them are predominately white with silvery plumage on their heads and rust on their wings and legs (there is a chocolate brown color variant that is very uncommon).

I was very pleased the other day to encounter a Ferruginous Hawk as it rested atop a utility pole alongside a farm road.

Ferruginous Hawks get their name from that rust-colored plumage. However, when viewed from a distance, it’s white that one sees. In bright sunlight a Ferruginous Hawk’s almost snow-white breast may gleam like a beacon.

These are truly massive hawks. A Red-tailed Hawk weighs a bit over two pounds (about a kilogram). A Ferruginous Hawk, by contrast weighs more than three pounds. Notice, however, that this big bird has surprisingly dainty feet.

Those feet are evolved to suit the hawk’s lifestyle. Ferruginous Hawks specialize in capturing burrowing rodents like ground squirrels and prairie dogs. The relatively small feet work to the hawk’s advantage if it thrusts its talons into a narrow burrow in an attempt to snatch a rodent.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 250, f5.6 @ 1/3200, -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

One Reply to “Ferruginous Hawk — Season’s First”

  1. rebelbreeze says:

    Lovely bird, great photo! As usual, interesting information too. Thanks

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