Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

Status in Alberta:

Endangered (At Risk)


Occurs mainly in large tracts of natural grassland and nests in lone trees and on cliffs.

PopulationFerruginous Hawk

The number of Ferruginous Hawks in Alberta has fallen greatly since the 1920’s. It is estimated that there are currently only about 618 breeding pairs in Alberta.


Current Threats

  • Ferruginous Hawks are skittish birds and easily disturbed by human activities (such as recreation, industrial development, agriculture etc.) especially during nesting.
  • They rely on large stretches of native grassland, so are susceptible to habitat loss and fragmentation from cultivation and other human developments.
  • In Alberta, they rely heavily on the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel as food source. Control of this rodent means less food for Ferruginous Hawks.
  • Collision with vehicles is also considerable for this species.

High Rise NestsFEHA and squirrels illustration

Ferruginous Hawks build nests in lone trees in the grasslands and also on steep eroding cliffs along prairie rivers.  They add new sticks every year which can result in tremendously tall nests.


Rusty Birds

“Ferruginous” comes from their rusty colour. “Ferra” means iron in Latin.


Big Birds

Ferruginous Hawks are the biggest hawk in North America; its specific name (regalis) means “royal” in Latin.


Natural Pest Control

A single pair of Ferruginous Hawks can consume up to 500 ground squirrels (“gophers”) in a breeding season

Species@Risk Quiz

Test your knowledge about Alberta’s grassland species at risk

Ferruginous Hawk

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Question 1

What metal does the Ferruginous Hawk get its name from?

Question 2

Where do Ferruginous Hawks nest?

In burrows
In trees or on a cliff
In large bird houses
Question 3

Which of these Alberta hawks are bigger than a Ferruginous Hawk?

Red-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Ferruginous Hawks are the biggest North American hawk
Question 4

Which food item makes up over 80% of the diet of Ferruginous Hawks in Alberta?

Ground Squirrels
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There are 4 questions to complete.

PublicFerruginous Hawk

  • Keep away from Ferruginous Hawk nests (at least 1km) during the nesting season.
  • Support native grassland habitat by choosing grass-fed meat in the grocery store.
  • Voice your support for native grassland conservation with your political leaders.
  • Educate yourselves and your family about Ferruginous Hawks and their role in the grassland ecosystem.



  • Hang on to your native grasslands and keep them healthy.
  • Protect lone trees in grassland areas.
  • Avoid approaching Ferruginous Hawk nests (at least 1km) during nesting season.
  • Tolerate some grounds squirrels – Ferruginous Hawks have to eat too and they offer an ecological means to keep them under control.
  • Consult with a biologist to see if it would be appropriate to install a nesting platform on your land.
  • Talk to your children and neighbours about the privilege of having these magnificent birds on your land.



  • Provides information about Ferruginous Hawks and their habitat.
  • Recommends management practices that are compatible with Ferruginous Hawks.
  • Helps with implementing habitat improvement solutions compatible with ranching operations (e.g., installing artificial nesting platforms, fencing panels for tree protection, etc.).
  • Participates in population monitoring in collaboration with the Government of Alberta.
  • Provides information on how to minimize the impact of industrial development in Ferruginous Hawk habitat.