The Ferruginous Hawk is a large, strong western raptor. It is unlike other raptors in the fact that it is not afraid to perch on the ground. It relies on a bold, swift stroke and the element of suprise to catch its food. Its main targets are ground squirrels and prairie dogs, although it will take on prey as large as a jackrabbit. It is 22-27 inches long and has a wingspan of about 56 inches.
The coloration of the Ferruginous Hawk is mainly brown. The back is brown streaked with rust and the thighs are rusty. The tail is faintly rusty white. The undersides are white lightly marked with brown. The eyes are yellow and have a white streak over their tops. The head is white streaked heavily with rusty-brown and brown. The beak is black with a yellow base. The adults also have a dark phase, where they are dark brown above and rusty brown underneath, with a white tail. Immatures resemble the adults, except that their undersides are completely white and their tails are more gray.
The Ferruginous Hawk is at home in the plains and some desert, mainly arid areas. They make stick nests in trees or on cliffs. The nests are reused year after year, and as with the eagles, may become very large. 2-6 bluish or white, heavily spotted with brown, eggs are laid and incubated by both parents for 28 days. The young leave in 44 to 48 days.
They are found throughout the western US and in sometimes in southern Canada, south to central Mexico and Baja California. They are fairly common in the United States and have no special conservation status.
Last Revised July 13, 1998