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About a week ago I successfully captured an image of a Ferruginous Hawk, showing it in profile. Ferruginous Hawks are winter residents of southern Arizona, spending their summers living in the plains areas of the western United States and southwestern Canada. They are relatively uncommon in our community but I usually manage to photograph at least a couple of them each winter.
Today’s profile shot is not the most dynamic image of this big raptor but it does show off most of the hawk’s anatomical features and unique plumage. Ferruginous Hawks are classified as members of the buteo family of birds, a family that includes their distant cousins, Red-tailed Hawks, but their appearance is distinctive.
The image shows off the Ferruginous Hawk’s bulky body. A Ferruginous Hawk may be nearly 50% larger than a Red-tailed Hawk. A Red-tailed Hawk weighs a bit over two pounds (about a kilogram). A Ferruginous Hawk weighs three and one-half pounds or more (about 1.6 kilograms or more).
The Ferruginous Hawk’s mouth, outlined in yellow, is big in proportion to its head, giving it an almost eagle-like look. By contrast, its feet are proportionately small, almost dainty in appearance. Some believe that the Ferruginous Hawk evolved these relative small feet to enable it to reach into rodent burrows and snatch unwary prey.
“Ferruginous” means “rusty,” and the outer wings of this hawk indeed are rust-colored. On this individual, and on about 90% of all Ferruginous Hawks, the rust-colored wings contest with a snow-white breast (there are a few Ferruginous Hawks with overall dark-colored plumage). To me, that white breast is about the easiest field mark to use in identifying the Ferruginous Hawk. In bright sunlight that breast almost gleams and it sometimes can be seen from hundreds of meters away.
Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 400, f5.6 @ 1/4000, -1/3 stop exposure compensation.