Fun Ferruginous Hawk Facts For Kids

Abhijeet Modi
Jan 11, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Tehil David
Ferruginous hawk facts about the biggest hawk of North America.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.3 Min

The hawk is one such bird that catches anyone's attention when it glides in the sky with its huge mesmerizing flight or standing proud on tall trees. Welcome to a bird guide about the Ferruginous hawk, the scientific name of which is Buteo regalis.

Ferruginous means a thing that contains iron oxides or rust.

This hawk derived its name due to its reddish-brown appearance that seems like rust. This regal raptor bird is the largest Buteo hawks with a gray head, rusty wings, powerful legs, and white underpants that it resembles mostly like an eagle.

They are not afraid of humans, and you may be lucky enough to approach one in the wild. They are found in an open country habitat, sagebrush, cliffs, dry prairie, and spend winter in grasslands or deserts with abundant small to medium-sized mammals.

They favor sagebrush prairie and grasslands during summer, but they prefer agricultural or tilled areas when it comes to winter.

Find some inspiring facts about North America's biggest hawk, found in the grasslands; it is a treat to watch this bird catch its prey using a variety of hunting techniques. Also, check our latest articles that may grab your attention on peacock and shoebill facts.

Ferruginous Hawk Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Ferruginous hawk?

Ferruginous hawks are medium-sized diurnal birds of prey. They belong to the family Accipitridae. The Ferruginous hawk with broad wings, endemic to the interior parts of North America, is the largest and strongest Buteo hawk.

What class of animal does a Ferruginous hawk belong to?

The Ferruginous hawk Buteo regalis are birds of prey that belong to the broad-winged Buteo hawks species. The Latin name for Ferrum means iron, iron-rust color – reddish-brown. Buteo regalis means royal hawk.

How many Ferruginous hawks are there in the world?

The exact population of Ferruginous hawks is not known for sure, but they are available in a huge number in North America. It was once an endangered species; due to initiatives taken to save the hawks, there was an increase of the population by over 155% in the last 40 years.

Where does a Ferruginous hawk live?

The Ferruginous hawks are seen in the western and central parts of North America, also in southern regions of Canada, the USA, and Mexico. You can find these fantastic birds on tall trees, haystacks, power poles,or other places.

What is a Ferruginous hawk's habitat?

The Ferruginous hawk habitat includes plains, plateaus, valleys, agricultural land, lowlands, rolling hills of grassland, the desert edges, and ranches. They prefer sagebrush, grasslands, and other arid shrub countries during the mating season. Nesting happens in the open areas or on trees, including willows, cottonwoods, and swamp oaks.

Who do Ferruginous hawks live with?

The Ferruginous hawks prefer to stay alone but are found in pairs during the breeding season. Sometimes these species are found in groups near cultivated fields with plenty of pocket gophers and ground squirrels.

Especially in some wintering areas, they are found in groups of up to 100 birds. Along with Rough-legged and Red-tailed hawks they make calls' kreeeeer' with a quavering, descending tone. A group of hawks is called boil, spiraling, knot or stream.

How long does a Ferruginous hawk live?

Ferruginous hawks live for an average of 20 years in the wild. But young hawks die within the first five years due to shortage of food supply, predation, and illegal shooting.

How do they reproduce?

Ferruginous hawks reproduce sexually. Female and male hawks fly together in circular motions and latches in the air and begin to free-fall to the land.

Hawks' breeding season is between March and June; they prefer sage, grasslands, and other arid shrub countries for breeding. Nests are built on trees, power poles, and sometimes even found on the ground in remote areas.

Like most bird species, hawks are monogamous, which means they have the same mating partner for their entire life. Before the mating season, they are involved in building the nest site; both males and females work together to building the nest and taking care of offsprings.

The male hawk brings the necessary material for building the nest, whereas the female builds it. Depending on prey abundance, the litter size varies from one to eight eggs. The female, on average, lays up to two to four eggs at two-day intervals.

What is their conservation status?

The conversation status is Least Concern as per IUCN. However, it was an endangered species previously due to loss of quality habitat, resulting from human occupation. Thanks to the conservation initiatives, the Ferruginous hawk is widespread again.

Ferruginous Hawk Fun Facts

What do Ferruginous hawks look like?

This huge bird, when perched, displays a broad chest, shoulders, and long wings and tail. This species of Ferruginous hawks are rusty in color on their shoulders, back, and legs; the belly is whitish with reddish-brown spots.

The hawk's long broad wings are rust in color is extended till its tail. The dark feathers of the leg form a V shape on the hawk's lighter-colored belly.

They have feathered legs all the way down to their toes. These birds are found in two age classes - adult and juvenile. The adult ones have brown eyes, and the juveniles are yellowish.

The yellow gape is a prominent feature of this species. The female is larger than the male, and a female is more rufous on the legs and belly than a male.

Ferruginous Hawk

How cute are they?

The Ferruginous hawk size equals that of an eagle. It is a terrific-looking wild bird, but it may or may not appeal to humans. Some have a keen interest in these species; some get nervous when they watch these enormous birds of prey on a flight with wings held high.

How do they communicate?

The Ferruginous hawks communicate with other hawks vocally by making sounds; they make 'kaah-kaah' calls. Ferruginous hawk call out whooshing sound when diving, but they give a scratchy scream when alarmed.

How big is a Ferruginous hawk?

The length of this Ferruginous hawk range from 22-27 in (55-68 cm), wingspan from 48-60 in (122 -152 cm).

Compared to Golden Eagles, which have a 6-7.5 ft wingspan, that of the Ferruginous hawk is 4-5 ft. People often mistake the Ferruginous hawk for Golden Eagles thanks to the Ferruginous hawk range of wingspan.

How fast can a Ferruginous hawk fly?

The flight of the Ferruginous hawk is faster and more agile. Hence the Ferruginous hawk is considered more effective in hunting than other large bird species.

Like an eagle, the Ferruginous hawk's have slow wing beats. They are capable of flying thousands of kilometers from nesting to feeding areas. The Ferruginous hawk can reach a speed of 120-150 mph while diving.

How much does a Ferruginous hawk weigh?

The Ferruginous hawk weighs 2 -4.5 lb (1-2 kg). Depending on the restrictive breeding range, the weight varies significantly.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male Ferruginous hawk is called tiercel, and the female is termed hen. Like all Buteo hawks, the female hawk is larger than the male by 25-35%. It is called reverse sexual size dimorphism.

What would you call a baby Ferruginous hawk?

The Ferruginous baby hawk is called eyas. The incubation period is up to 35 days, before which the parents contribute equally and spend time incubating the eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, the nestlings depend on parents for 40-50 days until they are fully developed and are on their own. They get matured to breed by the age of two years.

The juvenile Ferruginous hawk leaves the nest after seven weeks; males take 38-40 days while the females fly about 10 days later.

What do they eat?

The Ferruginous Hawk's main diet includes medium-sized mammals. These birds usually hunt during the day, but as the prey animals are crepuscular (active during the twilight period), they are seen hunting during dusk and dawn also.

They occasionally prey on insects, birds, and reptiles. The Ferruginous hawk Buteo regalis uses various hunting techniques to catch its prey.

They fly in the open country to search for their prey or sometimes ambush and wait for the prey outside the burrow for fresh pocket gopher mounds or ground squirrels. These birds hunt from a low searching flight or hunt from the ground. They strike the prey, kill it, and then consume it.

Occasionally, they are seen to hunt while flying. The prey is taken to the nests to feed the young ones.

In winters, 5-10 of these birds congregate in prairie dog towns. They create a feeding frenzy by hopping and flapping the wings, and they threaten each other. This event attracts more hawks and eagles to the site.

Here is a list of some small to medium-sized prey items of Ferruginous Hawk - black-tailed jackrabbit ground squirrels, prairie dog, kangaroo rat, pocket gophers, horned lark, bull snake, grasshoppers, and crickets.

Are they aggressive?

The Ferruginous hawk is aggressive and hard to handle. They are known to be particularly very aggressive during the mating season. To protect the nest site, they chase the intruders away from the territory. The hawk's feathers are held head upright and erected on the head, neck, and breast during their aggressive posture.

Hawks are known for attacking the prey from behind. Adding an element of surprise is the key to its hunting instinct.

They exhibit more aggression when it comes to defending their nest site. There are instances of hawks attacking humans to defend their nests. But other than that hawks usually don't harm humans as we are far bigger than the size of their prey.

If an intruder attacks these North American birds, it performs buoyant flight displays. It shows deep and heavy wing beats, ready to perform an undulating fight.

Would they make a good pet?

Are you someone who loves to keep a wild animal as a pet? A Ferruginous hawk might not be a good choice for you. Check the local law to have a hawk as a pet, as in most regions, it is prohibited to have native North American birds as a pet.

A Hawk is not a social bird. They, of course, would not like to be petted. They are considered dangerous due to the hunting instinct.

Did you know...

Ferruginous, according to Latin, means rust-colored. Due to its enormous size and behavior, it is often mistaken for an eagle.

When the time comes to build the nest, males and females take up the responsibility to build a new nest or refurbish an old one. The nest is built three feet high and across for the young ones to have enough space.

Like all birds, a nest is built using old sagebrush stems, sticks, twigs, metal debris, and sometimes bones.

The job gets done in a week, but they tend to abandon the nest and build another one fresh if interrupted. They share the same habitat and mostly nest by Swainson's hawks and Red-tailed hawks.

Hawks are known to have excellent eyesight; they can locate the prey from above the sky nearly 100 ft away. Hawks' eyesight is eight times better than human eyesight. Thanks to its binocular vision, They can see through both eyes together, helping them locate the prey from far distances.

Though they are monogamous birds sometimes, three adults are seen at nests.

In 2006, in Nevada, the oldest Ferruginous hawk was found, which was 23 years, eight months old.

When it comes to Ferruginous hawk vs. Red-tailed hawk, compared to the Red-tailed hawk from the North American region, the Ferruginous hawk has broad wings pointed at the tips. They appear in a combination of white and rusty colors.

Whereas Red-tailed hawks are shorter and more rounded wings, they are rich brown in color and pale belly. The name suggests the tail is cinnamon-red from above and pale from below. Both of these birds share similar habitat.

How much can a Ferruginous hawk carry?

You must have heard hawks carrying away small animals. Then, are your pets safe from hawk attacks? Are you curious to know how much can a Ferruginous hawk carry in its talons?

The average weight of a hawk is 4 lb. They cannot carry animals that are more than their weight, so your pet is safe if it more than 4 lb. However, beware; if the weight of your dog or cat is smaller than any raptor's prey, the risk is much higher.

What is a Ferruginous hawk morph?

Like other Buteos, we can observe two-color morph birds- the Light morph and Dark morph Ferruginous hawk.

The Light morph hawk is rusty brown on upperparts. When it comes to the head, neck, and underparts, they are pale and can some spot rust markings on underwings; the upper wings are gray. For a Light morph, a characteristic rufous V-shape can be observed on the belly.

The Ferruginous hawk dark morph is dark brown on both upperparts and underparts. Whereas light areas on the upper and lower wings are grayish with whitish mottling.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including hoopoe, or wandering albatross.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Ferruginous hawk coloring pages.

Ferruginous Hawk Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Rabbits, ground squirrels, antelope, kangaroo rats, squirrels, and deer mice

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?

1-8 eggs

How Much Did They Weigh?

2-4.5 lb (977-2074 g)

What habitat Do they Live In?

arid and semiarid grassland

Where Do They Live?

north america

How Long Were They?

22-27 in (55-68 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Buteo regalis

What Do They Look Like?

Rusty color

Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

eagles, coyotes, fox

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

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Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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Fact-checked by Tehil David

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David picture

Tehil DavidBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Tehil David Singh is a fact checker with a Bachelor's degree in English literature from St.Xavier's College, Palayamkottai, and a Master's degree in Philosophy, and Religion from Madurai Kamaraj University. He has a passion for writing and hopes to become a story writer in the future. Tehil has previously interned in content writing and has been a content creator for the last three years. In his personal life, he enjoys singing, songwriting, performing, and writing stories.

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