Status and Occurrence of Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) in British Columbia. (Revised: April 2014)
by Rick Toochin
Read the full article with photos here.
Introduction and Distribution
The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is a colorful raptor species that has a limited breeding range in Canada confined to the Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba (Dunn and Alderfer 2011). The Canadian population is only 10% of the world population for this species (COSEWIC 2008). The entire Canadian population is estimated to be no higher than about 1200 pairs (COSEWIC 2008). The Ferruginous Hawk is still found in Canada but it has lost over 48% of its historical range making it a threatened species (COSEWIC 2008). The Ferruginous Hawk is strongly dependent on native grasslands that have healthy populations of prairie dog colonies because they are the species primary source of food (COSEWIC 2008). This grassland habitat has been subject to fragmentation by urbanization and farming which has led to significant habitat loss over the past one hundred years (COSEWIC 2008). This habitat loss in turn has seen a large decrease in the population of Ferruginous Hawks across the Canadian and American Prairies (COSEWIC 2008). Because Ferruginous Hawks are so directly reliant upon non-cultivated grasslands, they are considered a native grassland specialist (COSEWIC 2008). The Canadian population of Ferruginous Hawks all migrate south to spend the winter in either the western United States or northern Mexico (COSEWIC 2008). In British Columbia, the Ferruginous Hawk is considered a vagrant species, but has been documented breeding twice in the Nicola Valley region in the interior of British Columbia (Campbell et al. 1990). In nearby Washington State in the United States, there is a small population of Ferruginous Hawks found east of the Cascade Mountains in the dry interior in the southern portion of the State (Wahl et al. 2005). Most records in British Columbia likely come from the Washington State population as spring overshoots to the Okanagan Valley (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 1990). Birds found in the Kootenays could be birds that overshot the Rocky Mountains on their way to or from the Alberta breeding grounds (Campbell et al. 1990).