Monday, December 29, 2014

Ferruginous Hawk

The mostly white underparts, dark leg feathering extending to the toes, and pale head, all indicate that this raptor is a Ferruginous Hawk. This individual perched on a high-tension pole near Pierre, South Dakota; the photo was taken several years ago.

Ferruginous Hawks are found dry grasslands in the northern Great Plains and adjacent Canadian prairie provinces, and western Washington south to northern Arizona and New Mexico. They winter in the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Their primary prey consists of rabbits, ground squirrels and prairie dogs. The hawks’ numbers fluctuate with their prey.

Ornithologists are uncertain about how well Ferruginous Hawks are faring. Populations appear to be declining in several regions, but there are few data and even fewer hypotheses for the causes. Numbers have definitely declined in some ares of the Canadian prairie provinces and in North Dakota (where they are now absent). More southern populations seem to be holding steady. Some western populations are increasing, while others, in northern Utah and eastern Nevada are decreasing (Bechard and Schmutz 1995).

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