The Hawk Family Ferruginous Hawks in Arizona

Posted by Kathleen Prince on April 27, 2016

The other day as I was driving through some farm land on the way home from a photography class, a friend and I noticed a water tower sitting at an intersection.   My KMP_0838friend pointed out a nest way up high, just underneath the reservoir itself.    Of course, my long zoom lens was at home so we thought maybe someone was in the nest, but couldn’t be sure.      So…. what does an inquiring mind do?  Go home, get the long lens and go back to the nest!


Later that day…  with the long lens in hand, a trio of baby hawks could be seen.

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For a long time, all I could see was the tops of their little fuzzy heads.  But, soon one woke up and started moving around.    After some stretching, he hopped up and soaked in some sunshine.


He obviously was hungry – but unfortunately the water tower just wasn’t providing a helping hand!

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Soon, Dad flew by screeching.  I think he was telling the kids to wake up, lunch is coming!    Soon all three of them could be seen walking around in their nest.

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Before long, another screech and in came Mom with lunch!

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It turns out that this is a family of Ferruginous Hawks.  Ferruginous Hawks are the largest of North American Hawks, and are found in prairies, deserts and the open ranges in the West.   These Hawks have a limited diet of small mammals, rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, prairie dogs and pocket gophers.

The nest of a Ferruginous Hawk often measures more than 3 feet high and 3 feet across.  The male brings most of the materials and the female does most of the construction, and between them they can complete a nest in less than a week.   These hawks will generally build an elevated nest on the remains of another species’ nest because the large bulky sticks that they use are not easily woven together for nesting.

In the photo below, notice how the little one on the far left looks like he is wearing blooomers!  It turns out that Ferruginous Hawks are the only hawks that have feathers all the way down their legs to their toes.

A Ferruginous Hawk is approximately 22-27 inches in length, with a wingspan of 52.5 to 60 inches.   They are larger than a Swainson’s Hawk, and smaller than a Golden Eagle.  The oldest Ferruginous Hawk on record was at least 23 years 8 months old when it was found in Nevada in 2006.

The nesting period of a Ferruginous Hawk is 38-50 days.  I’m not sure how old these little ones are, so I’ll need to make sure and go back to take photos of their growth until they leave the nest.


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