On today's episode of wing scanning, I wrapped up my sample of the summer hawks (Swainson's hawk; Buteo swainsoni), and have moved on to the largest North American Buteo, the ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). This is another Wyoming bird, and it's totally absent from North Carolina. But, I realized that at the end of this, I will probably have a pretty nice sample of all of the North American Buteos, which could become a fun little publication all on its own, so here we are.
The ferruginous hawk really is a pretty regal bird. First off, it's a big bird. Big females can mass around 2 kg (4 pounds). That may not sound like much, if you're used to thinking about mammals, but trust me... in the bird world, that's substantial! Ferruginous hawks come in a couple of color morphs, dark and light. The light morph is almost completely white on their bellies and underwings, and they have a beautiful mottled rust red back and legs. The dark morph has a red-brown color over most of its body, but retains a brilliant white trailing edge on the underside of their wings. This species is largely dependent upon prairie dogs as their primary source of prey, and have been documented using a particularly unusual hunting style. Some individuals, apparently, will lay on their sides, talons at the ready, next to a prairie dog burrow. Then, when the unsuspecting prairie dog pops out above ground, the hawk snags it, and that's lunch.
To help clear up some of the backlog, I thought I would also keep on with the Buteo theme, but bring things back to North Carolina. Red shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) are one of the most common birds of prey in this neck of the woods. They also happen to be rather pretty. And much, much smaller (around 775 grams, at the large end) than the ferruginous hawk!