On a brief trip into town for lunch, I went a different route than Main Street. Being new to Richfield, somehow I wound up on another road. When I was approaching a stop sign, I saw a big fluff of snow at the very top of a small grouping of some type of spruce trees. It wasn’t odd that snow was on the ground, but of all three of the trees I was looking at, the only blob of snow on them was on the very tip top. Pulling off the side of the road, I stepped out of the truck with the camera to take a closer look. Wow, was I ever surprised. The blob of snow was the biggest, whitest bird of prey I had ever seen. It even seemed to be wearing pants (feathers) down its legs. There before me was my introduction to the absolutely gorgeous Ferruginous Hawk!
As high as the tree it was in was, the hawk took flight. I snapped photo after photo of it as best I could as it flew. Sometimes, you see something and dismiss it as being a bird. Taking a second look, pulling off the road to further look with binoculars or a camera may give you a different perspective of what you’re seeing. The only thing that made me pull off, was that there was no snow anywhere on those trees except on the top. It seemed weird on this beautiful sunny blue sky day, that there would be a huge clump of snow just on the tip top branch with all of the sun shining, and no snow anywhere else on the trees.
Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)
- Size: 22 – 28 inches, wingspan 56 inches. This hawk is one of the largest buteos. It’s latin name “regalis” means kingly or royal. Buteos are large winged raptors that have large bodies.
- Habitat: open grasslands, deserts. Sits atop fence posts, electrical poles. Seen in small canyons.
- Food: ground squirrels, prairie dogs, pocket gophers (known here in Utah as “pot guts”), rabbits, rodents, snakes, lizards, some birds, large insects.
- Nest: in areas of cottonwood trees, willows, and swamp oaks. In an isolated tree, ledges or rock, power pole or other man-made structure. May use sticks, cattails, cow dung, or grasses to line it with.
- A resident here in southern Utah, but consult your local birding field guide for your area.
Ferruginous Hawk Territory
When you see a bird that you’ve never seen before, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it migratory to my area?
- Am I in its most preferred habitat?
- Is it alone, or with a mate perhaps?
- Is it eating? If so, what is it eating? Is there an ample supply there of what it’s eating? If a mammal, reptile or other bird, is the “meal” a normal resident of that type of environment?
The answers to these questions may help you to see your bird again near or at that same location. In my case, I went back to the road with the three tall spruce trees. They were in the only house there as it was in the middle of vast farm and pasture lands. There were NO other trees present. It could sit high atop them and survey the pastures for some unsuspecting “meal” to show up. Two days later, I saw another Ferruginous Hawk near that area in flight. It might have even been the same one. So, try to visit the same area you saw your bird in again, particularly at the same time of day if possible. You just might see it!