Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the ferruginous hawk.
These are hawks of open grasslands of the west. The largest of the buteo hawks, they have a wingspan of 53-60 inches and can be 20-26 inches long. The females can be twice as large as the males. The light color morph is by far the most commonly observed.
When seen in flight, these hawks have a white tail and belly and mostly white wings. When soaring or gliding, the wings will be held in a shallow dihedral. The legs are feathered all the way down to the feet, and when folded in flight, form a rust-colored V. The only other raptors with feathered legs are golden eagles and rough-legged hawks.
When perched, the back of these hawks appears mostly rusty brown. The rare dark morph still has the white, unbanded tail and white flight feathers that contrast with the dark wing linings, but it is rusty dark brown above and on the belly. There is quite a bit of marking variation between immature and adult ferruginous hawks.
When hunting, these hawks are able to hover and stoop (dive down) from great heights to catch their prey, mainly rodents and snakes. Ferruginous hawks are uncommon in Archuleta County, but have been seen in winter on Trujillo Road in areas of prairie dog activity.
The number of these magnificent hawks has been declining in past decades due to loss and fragmentation of grasslands resulting from agriculture and development.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on February 11, 2020.