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Ferruginous hawk (light morph)        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Ferruginous hawks are the largest North American buteos and are characteristic birds of open prairies and plains.   They are generally uncommon and unfortunately,declining in much of their range, but many winter in southern California.  The San Jacinto Wildlife Area (close to my home in Riverside) is a stronghold for these spectacular raptors, and I've counted as many as six perched on power poles on a two-mile stretch of road.   Most of these photos were obtained there; one bird was in the Carrizo Plain (a ~200 km to the northwest).   Ferruginous hawks occur in two color morphs; all these birds show the more common light phase -- a large, pale hawk with touches of rusty red on the back and legs.   I took most of the pictures out of my car window; like many raptors, ferruginous hawks are much less concerned by vehicles than by humans on foot.   Some of these birds (the ones with large pupils) were photographed early on overcast days or before sunrise.   They were unfazed when I used flash and even permitted me to get out of the car for a few shots.

All of these birds are pale-phase adults; other adults are shown here, juveniles can be found here, dark-morph ferruginous hawks are here, and flying birds are here.

  • Canon 10D, 1D Mk. II, 1D3, or 1D4; 500 mm f4 IS lens or 800 mm f5.6 IS lens and 1.4X or 2X converters, some with fill-in flash (2003-2005, 2009, 2013)