Species Spotlight: Ferruginous Hawk
Common name:Ferruginous Hawk
The Ferruginous hawk makes its home in open, arid habitats where grasses or sagebrush are dominant, breeding in the grassland regions of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, and southwestern Manitoba.
A diurnal predator, it feeds mainly on ground squirrels, with breeding pairs consuming up to 500 of these small rodents in one nesting season. As North America’s largest species of hawk, it has a wingspan of 1.5 metres and ranges from 56 to 69 cm in length.
Closely resembling the Golden Eagle, it can be identified by its fan-shaped tail, round-tipped wings, and distinct rusty-coloured plumage. Females have darker colouring on their stomach and legs, and tend to be larger than males.
What is Being Done
In Canada, the species has seen a decline of 64% between 1992 and 2005. An estimated 618 pairs can be found in Alberta, 500 in Saskatchewan, and 42 in Manitoba.
The loss of grassland habitat to extensive agriculture and natural fire suppression are major factors that have contributed to the decline in numbers. In addition, Oil and gas exploration continue to pose a significant threat to its essential habitat.
The Ferruginous hawk is protected under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), by the Canada National Parks Act in the territory of the Grasslands National Park, and under the Albertan Wildlife Act. In Manitoba, it is protected under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, in Saskatchewan it is not protected under any form of provincial law, leaving what is left of estimated populations at a high risk of further decline.
What You Can Do
Thanks to Nature Canada volunteer Michael Berrigan for contributing this profile.