Ferruginous Hawks

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Thursday, December 5, 2013 

Just thought I would post a few Ferruginous pics since someone asked ("click" on photos to enlarge). I have too many to go through thoroughly right now, so I'll post more down the road. The nest shot is from years ago when conducting surveys and research, otherwise I keep my distance from nesting birds (if anyone was curious).

Anonymous Hatem Gomaa said...

This bird is something else. It's like a Harlan's got together with a rough leg and said let's make something together and throw in some puffy lips, while we're at it!

I've always been impressed at how stocky and pudgy this bird is. It's probably the one NA buteo that has the toughest/meanest eyebrow of them all.

Beautiful photos, Jerry, as usual. Your photography skills are really outstanding.

December 5, 2013 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Thanks Hatem....I appreciate the compliment, but its not as much a skill as the wood carving that you do.

December 5, 2013 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

I'm envious. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful bird in NA. Where did you do your survey work?

December 5, 2013 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Derek

Mostly Nevada, Utah, and Washington. Agree, they are gorgeous birds!

December 5, 2013 at 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Matt Finch said...

Jerry, you and I need to team up and share data on surveying. I've got one i need to tell you about. blows my mind.
Don't know where too, but Brent Housekeeper has been documenting these birds for a very long time and has nests in Wyoming that I wonder how they're doing. BTW did you attend his lecture at the Salt Lake Bird Festival a few years ago?

December 5, 2013 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Matt

I missed the lecture....but heard about it. I haven't done surveys in years and years, but we need to get out this winter for some hawks and chat away.

December 5, 2013 at 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surveys out west? Do you cover big areas of lands? I have seen websites with raptor surveys from the western U.S. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to search huge areas of land.

I participate in a volunteer raptor nest survey in the local parks in NE Ohio - The Cleveland Metroparks. Next year will be my fifth year. I wish I had started sooner. The parks here are relatively small. It makes finding the nests somewhat easy because you have a limited amount of land to search. But, the birds can be very good at hiding their nests. I have a few general observations that I'd like to share, if you don't mind:

The red-tailed hawks are usually very skittish about people watching their nests. I have to find the farthest possible viewing position to keep those birds on their nests during incubation. The adults are much more comfortable a couple of weeks after their youngsters hatch and have grown a little bit.

The Cooper's hawks nests I have watched have the most tolerant birds. They often come and perch above where I am viewing with my binoculars. Same with the broad-winged hawks. I had a fledgling from a broad-winged hawk nest come down less than 10 feet from where I was watching until an adult came and moved it back.

I have only watched one red-shouldered hawk nest. Those hawks start screaming as soon as they see me no matter how far away I am. I think I need to use a telescope from a mile away to keep them happy!

I have also had the chance to watch a barred owl nest cavity and a screech owl nesting hole. Those were cool. I had to arrive at about 7 am in the morning to see any activity at the barred owl nest. It was really great to see the fledglings. The adults didn't seem to mind that I was there. The male would often be perched right along the trail where I was standing. Some very experienced birders who also do the survey told me that I needed to watch the screech owl nest just as the sun was going down in mid May to see those youngsters. I got to watch the adults feeding them a number of evenings. The adult screech owls would come and perch right over me for a minute or two. But,then they would go back to their feeding.

Are their any blogs or websites around where people share their experiences with raptor surveys that you would recommend? I would appreciate any advice about finding nests or watching them. I should add that I do take photos of the nests and the birds to pass along to the people in the survey. I am on one side of town. The people who run the program are in the other. So, we exchange emails a lot. I am rather protective of the nests I find. I will step away from an area if I hear people come by when I am visiting a nest.

Ken Andrews
Maple Heights, Ohio

December 6, 2013 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...


I am glad you are respectful of the nesting birds, most conscientious photographers are, but a few bad apples.....

December 6, 2013 at 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Killer photos of a killer bird, thanks for putting them up.

December 6, 2013 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Hatem Gomaa said...

Good stuff, Ken. Not to get off topic, here, sorry Jerry, but it's really cool and interesting that you found the Cooper's hawks to be the most tolerant of the birds you've seen nesting. Accipiters by nature seem to be the most high strung and stressed out birds of the bunch. Maybe hormones have something to do with it and they mellow out during breeding season. I can tell you that goshawks will come at you even it you're a mile away from their nest. They turn into Mitsubishi Zeros! :) It's nice to hear other people's experiences.

One thing about this Ferruginous hawk that I noticed is that no matter what color phase it is, the boots (furry feathers on the legs) are almost always that rusty darker brown. The legs can vary even though on many birds they also do stay browish no matter light or dark. But the boots are consistent, at least to me. Does that seem right, Jerry?

December 7, 2013 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

For the most part, that is true, but darker birds can have leggings that blend right in with the body

December 7, 2013 at 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

Jerry, I've heard that there are some adults that have white legs, is that true? If so, how would you be able to correctly age that bird in the field?

December 7, 2013 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Interesting Derek, I have never seen an adult with white legs. I have seen molting adults where the leggings are not so disricntly reddish and some adults where the leggings are not so dark rufous. If you find a picture of one, I would love to see it...I'm always interested to see something new!

There are other differences anyway that separate juvs from adults such a d head pattern, underwing plumage, and the dark trailing edge to the wings is more obvious on adults but not as obvious as on most other buteos.

December 7, 2013 at 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

The only place I've found it mentioned is in the Wheeler guide and he didn't have a picture.

December 7, 2013 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Wonder why he didn't show it, sometimes authors hear about things from others and publish it if they thinks its significant, but the old school proof of "becasue I said so" just doesn't cut it these days, especially since it is easy to see all the misidentifications of age/sex/morph stuff out there with the click of a mouse.

Not saying its incorrect information, just raising the question...and maybe we can find an example on the internet, I'll do a search since I'm interested in it. And to tell you the truth I want to find one and won't be surprised if I do! Nobody can see all the variation that exists in these birds in one lifetime!

December 7, 2013 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

I enjoyed the conversation, learned a few things and loved your photos of this magnificent hawk, Jerry. Especially loved the 5th one down with that wing position and the glaring look slightly back at you. Maybe I was with you when you took the 8th one down???

December 7, 2013 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Yes, Ron, that dark one is from the last day we went out....gorgeous bird! Funny, that is the only pic here with the 7D, all the other images are pretty old.

December 7, 2013 at 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyon said...

I like the same photo as Ron the best. As someone into molt I always seem to like the photos that show the upper wing. Is the variation here (photos 1, 2, 5, and 14) due only to molt?

December 8, 2013 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Hatem Gomaa said...

I can see why some people are enamored by this raptor, kinda like what Derek said about it being the most beautiful bird in NA in his opinion. That's the highest endorsement. I enjoy hearing people's 'favorites'. That could be a whole subject matter on its own. What's your favorite raptor and why? I bet you'd get a lot of really cool answers.

December 8, 2013 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Hatem -- Good idea, I'll post that tonight, can accept and reply comments from phone but can't post a blog. Don't even like reponding on the phone....oops gotta go, Rough-legged in sight!

December 8, 2013 at 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry and Hatem:

I know I have a small sample to work with. But, I am wondering if the Coops I watch are calmer because their nests are very well hidden. Most are in conifers and are very difficult to find. It took me a couple of weeks to find one of them even though I originally found a feeding branch where the male would bring in food for the female during nesting. It was almost impossible to watch where the female was going after she ate. I eventually spotted a few twigs on the top of a pine tree. I would bet that I am the only human to see these Coop's nests. They probably get used to me. I am sure they recognize me. The nests are never near a trail or road.

The red-tailed hawk nests are a lot bigger and more obvious. Maybe they feel more exposed than the smaller hawks.

December 11, 2013 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...

Its a loaded question because the answer varies depending on where you are. Cooper's Hawks in the West (I'll use the Utah population as an example) are very "tame", they nest in parks, golf courses, neighborhoods, etc. I can walk right under a nest here, but try to do that in the East and the bird will flush immediately.

December 11, 2013 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jerry Liguori said...


The variation in upperwings is just natural variation, some birds are brighter colored on top and grayer faced (typically males), while others are browner on the upperwings and head. Of course, nothing is 100% that is why I say typically

December 11, 2013 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Hatem Gomaa said...

Jerry & Ken,
that is some fascinating information! Not only am I learning the subtle variations of plumages between eastern and western birds of the same race, and obviously not so subtle in red tails, but now we've uncovered what appears to be behavioral differences as well. As someone who lives in the northeast, I can confidently tell you that most accipiters are extremely wound up. Every once in a while you'll see a sharpie that's a bit mellow, but you can't really judge that when you're holding the bird and it has nowhere to go. But many falconers around these parts won't even bother trapping Coops' because of that high strung nature they exhibit. They end up being too much to deal with and frankly it ends up affecting their health. At least that's my understanding from the falconers I have met and know. Goshawks aren't as bad as Coops and worth the effort because of their aggressive nature and hunting prowess. But to hear you guys talk about Cooper's hawks in the west that are generally tame....really interesting! :) Great stuff.

December 13, 2013 at 1:02 AM  

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