Select map overlays Admin Regions Bird Conservation Regions Blocks Coordinates Ecoprovinces Cities and Roads
Ferruginous Hawk, Len Jellicoe
Photo © Len Jellicoe

Photo: Len Jellicoe
Breeding evidence - Ferruginous Hawk
Breeding evidence

Click for a larger version or to add map overlays

Ferruginous Hawk
Buteo regalis

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
452 - 452 m
Conserv. status:
COSEWIC: Threatened
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
0 0 1 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Canada1970 - 2012 0.731 (-2.06 - 3.24)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range The Ferruginous Hawk breeds in the open grassland prairie, shrub steppe, and desert regions of western North America, and winters in the arid southwest into northern Mexico's Sierra Madre. This powerful and regal Buteo is the largest North American hawk. Its large size, broad wings, colourful plumage of white underparts and rufous back and legs, and its distinct, dihedral flying pattern, should make it stand out to any observer. In British Columbia it is a very rare summer visitor. Most birds are postulated to be migrant overshoots from the Great Basin population or from the Prairies (Toochin 2014). Of its primary prey, jackrabbit (Lepus), prairie dog (Cynomys), and ground squirrel (Spermophilus) species (Bechard and Schmutz 1995), only the ground squirrels are found in British Columbia. The lack of a prey base and the rarity of open grassland habitat in British Columbia suggest that the province does not provide much suitable habitat for breeding Ferruginous Hawks.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Historically in British Columbia, the Ferruginous Hawk was a very rare breeder on the Thompson Plateau in the Southern Interior Ecoprovince, where it has only been confirmed to breed twice (Campbell et al. 1990; Toochin 2014). The only Atlas record came from the west side of the Thompson Plateau in 2010. There were other sightings during the Atlas data collection years (2008-2012), but most were outside of the breeding period (Toochin 2014). In 2013, one or two birds were observed near the 2010 Atlas observation location (Baines 2013).

It most often nests in trees and shrubs, and also cliffs, utility structures, and rocky outcrops (Bechard and Schmutz 1995). This hawk also nests in artificial, purpose-built nest structures erected throughout its present and former range in an effort to increase reproductive success.

Conservation and Recommendations The Ferruginous Hawk is considered a vagrant in British Columbia. It is a native grassland specialist, so the loss of that habitat through changing agricultural practices and, to a lesser extent, urbanization, has resulted in a large decrease in Ferruginous Hawk populations across the Prairies, with almost 50% of its historical range lost in the Canadian Prairies (COSEWIC 2008). Climate change projections (e.g., Hamann and Wang 2006) suggest an increasing trend for potentially suitable grassland habitat in southern British Columbia. Sightings in or near grasslands should be investigated for possible breeders, and any occurrence or breeding evidence should be submitted to relevant monitoring and species at risk data repositories like eBird and the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre.

Christopher Di Corrado

Recommended citation: Di Corrado, C. 2015. Ferruginous Hawk in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [28 May 2024]

Birds Canada Privacy Policy | Accessibility Policy
British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas, Birds Canada, 5421 Robertson Road Delta, BC V4K 3N2 Canada
Phone: 1-877-592-8527 E-mail:
Banner photo: Glenn Bartley