Ferruginous Buzzard (Buteo regalis)

Ferruginous Buzzard
The Raptor Foundation
Named after the character in
Star Trek, Deep Space Nine
(a Ferengi buzzard !).

Ferruginous refers to the reddish colour of the wing & leg feathers, from the Latin word for rust - ferrugo. The Latin name, Buteo regalis, means "regal (or royal) hawk".

The Ferruginous Buzzard is native to North America, mainly on the western side. It breeds anywhere in the region from southern Saskatchewan in Canada down through to north-west Texas. Over winter, they migrate mainly south west to California & central Mexico.

Over the whole of their range, the population of Ferruginous Buzzards is on the decline (they are listed as a species of Federal Special Concern &, in Utah, a State Threatened Species), with the exception of California in which there has been a big increase during the 1990's. Habitat loss caused by large scale agricultural development & mining operations have been cited as some of the main reasons for the decline.

The difference in size between males & females is much less in Ferruginous Buzzards than the majority of other raptors, the females being only very slightly larger on average. In the wild, breeding normally starts when the birds are 2 years old & they can live up to 20 years.

Ferruginous Buzzards live mainly in open areas, such as grasslands, shrublands & deserts or on the outer edges of forests. They occasionally roost in groups of over 20 individual birds. Trees are the preferred nesting sites, but because of their habitat, this is not always possible & nests are made on rocky ledges or hillsides. Where ground nesting sites are used, the young are particularly at risk from coyotes & foxes. Most often, the male will collect material for the nest (large twigs & roots & even bones of lage animals such as bison have been used) while the female makes the nest (often held together with cow or horse dung). The same nests are often used each year, being added to until they are of similar size to a Golden Eagles nest. 3 or 4 eggs are laid, with around two days between each, the incubation period is between 28-32 days & both parents will take turns in incubating the eggs. The young are fully fledged from around 38 - 50 days after hatching & will stay with the parents for up to a further 6 weeks. The young males often leave the nest 1-2 weeks earlier than the females.

Ferruginous buzzards prey mainly on rodents such as rabbits, gophers, prairie dogs & ground squirrels. They will also take small birds, snakes, lizards & sometimes insects, such as locusts & grasshoppers (often taken in flight). Hunting takes place throughout the day, though it is normally concentrated in the cooler periods of the early morning & late afternoon, when their main prey is more active. Apart from attacking the prey from flight, they often standing waiting at the entrance to the burrow of the prey (e.g. prairie dogs) & wait for the prey to come out. In strong winds, they have been observed hovering in order to find their prey. As well as communal roosting, they will sometimes hunt in pairs or as a part of a group.

For their body size, Ferruginous Buzzards have relatively small feet, which limits the size of prey that they can catch. They also have a very large mouth which it can open wide enabling it to quickly swallow large prey whole. The combination of these two features makes the bird not particularly useful as a hunting bird in falconry, as they can only catch relatively small prey which they can swallow very quickly, before the falconer has time to retrieve it..

Despite being similar to typical buteo's, in some respects, both physically (such as the large mouth & feathering all the way down its legs) & behaviourally, it more resembles small eagles & there is some debate as to whether the species should be reclassified. It is either the largest of the American buzzards or the smallest of the American eagles.

IUCN Red List Status :

Least Concern (LC)

AOU Data :

Species Number : 348.0
Alpha Code : FEHA
Common Name : Ferruginous Hawk
Longevity Record : 17yrs 11months

Also Called :

English Ferruginous Rough-Legged Buzzard (Hawk).
Ferruginous Eagle
Dutch Rosse Ruigpootbuizerd
French Buse rouilleuse (Rusty or Rust Coloured Buzzard)
German Königsbussard
Spanish Gavilán herrumbroso
Swedish Kungsvråk

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