Ferruginous Hawk – A Regal Raptor

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Ferruginous Hawk in flight pano

Ferruginous Hawk with wings up
Tooele County, Utah
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

I love to say “Ferruginous”, I’m not sure exactly why but I think it is a fun word to pronounce, especially when I roll the “R’s”. Yes, it is probably a little odd to enjoy saying it so much but I don’t apologize for it! I love to say “Flammulated” too.

Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis) are the largest hawks found in North America, the “regalis” in the latin name means “kingly” or “regal” and I have to agree with those descriptions. The English name; “Ferruginous”, means “rusty” and that also describes some of this hawk’s coloring very well.

Ferruginous Hawk

Bad timing
Tooele County, Utah
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 355mm, natural light, not baited or set up

Ferruginous Hawks are found in western North America in terrains from grasslands to open deserts. I often see them perched on utility poles, old snags, on top of sagebrush bushes or where I often find this species in Tooele County, on top of a small weather reporting station. My bad timing allowed the weather station to still be obvious in the photo above but these large raptors do take off quick and I wanted a series of shots as it lifted off, this was the first frame of that series.

I haven’t had the best of luck getting quality photos of this species, it seems that quite often they take off facing away from me and I like having eye contact with my subject. Once I spotted one slowly flying in to where I stood but alas I didn’t have my camera in hand. I told a friend to grab his camera and he got some decent images whilst I got nothing but a great view of the Ferruginous flying low and slow over my head. I hope my luck changes. Or I’ll need to seriously consider spending a lot of time waiting where I know I see these raptors.

Ferruginous Hawk in flight

Ferruginous Hawk with wings on a down beat
Tooele County, Utah
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or set up

Yesterday I found this Ferruginous perched twice on the weather station so I was able to get two series of lift off shots and was quite pleased to have those opportunities. I like that the image above shows the “rusty” plumage on the wing, shoulder and back of this gorgeous hawk. I have not seen the dark morph of this species yet though I understand they are equally as stunning as the light morph.

Any time I see a Ferruginous (rolling my “R’s”) Hawk, they take my breath away



  1. Rohn November 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Your welcome Mom,

    I cant wait for the Howe Idaho report on Roughy numbers. Something is going on here with that species. Good arctic breeding season maybe.

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

      Let us know the numbers on the Hoew Idaho report of the Roughie numbers!

  2. Rohn November 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Really nice group of photographs. I love your roughy, counted 20 in 6 miles today. The Ferruginous hawk photo are beautifully captured and executed.


    • Mia McPherson November 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Hiya Rohn,

      Thanks for asking the Roughies to come down this way, saw 14 today in just a couple of hours. Thanks also for your comment on my Ferruginous Hawk images son 🙂 Hope to see you soon.

  3. Larry Jordan November 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Ferruginous is fun to say but not as fun as witnessing one of these most regal of hawks! I am so lucky, we have one that winters around the large ranches on the road I take to work every day. I always look forward to seeing “my” Ferruginous Hawk and have been expecting it to show up any day now. Every year I attempt to get better photos than the year before but I still have none as good as yours Mia.

    I was intrigued to see a Ferruginous Hawk displaying kiting behavior over a pasture on a windy day last winter. Beautiful!

    • Mia McPherson November 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Larry, I’ve seen the kiting behavior with Ferruginous Hawks too, it is very interesting and beautiful. I saw two Ferruginous Hawks today but they were too far away for good images. Thanks for your very kind words.

  4. Bob Zeller November 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Great photos. I just came across your blog. Found a link at the Nature Blog Network. Just when I get to thinking that my bird photos are pretty good, I discover someone like you that has more outstanding images. I am impressed with all of your work, that Little Blue Heron blew me away. I will bookmark your blog at watch for more.

    • Mia McPherson November 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      Thank you so much for your very kind words Bob. I think as bird photographers we have extremely beautiful, interesting and enchanting subjects. I appreciate you stopping by!

  5. Scott Simmons November 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Lovely images. Thanks for sharing them!

  6. Dan Huber November 8, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Wonderful post – love the shots – can’t wait to say Ferruginous myself when i see one someday 🙂


    • Mia McPherson November 8, 2011 at 6:38 am

      thanks Dan, Ferruginous is fun to say especially if you roll the “r’s”. Hope you get to see one.

  7. Laurence B November 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Gotta love saying Pyrrhuloxia too. Prothonotary also comes out with a satisfying effect (unfortunately, I’ve never seen either bird). These images are still very nice Mia, don’t beat yourself up too badly.
    I imagine its also nice to say, Ptarmigan, but I’ve never had the opportunity.

    • Mia McPherson November 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Laurence, I like saying Prothonotary too. I have seen them, they are stunning birds, no photos though! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Robert November 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I also like to say Phainopepla! There are many other bird names that make me giggle to say, but for purely puerilistic reasons.

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