Ferruginous Hawk
(Buteo regalis)


Picture of bird
© H. Loney Dickson
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Ferruginous Hawk breeds on the native grasslands of the Prairie provinces. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) provides the only long-term data on the species in Canada; results suggest a moderate increase relative to 1970. This increase is mirrored by results from the Christmas Bird Count and the BBS at the continental scale. However, targeted surveys in Alberta suggest a decrease in that regional population. The national population is thus perhaps best assessed as showing a moderate increase relative to 1970, but with low reliability. In 2008, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed Ferruginous Hawk as Threatened based the suspected decline at that time, the small size of the Canadian population, and its sensitivity to human disturbance (COSEWIC 2008d). The species was first assessed as Threatened in 1980, changed to Special Concern in 1995, then re-confirmed as Threatened in 2008 (COSEWIC 2008d). The Ferruginous Hawk is listed under the Species at Risk Act. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2008 
SARA (Canada)Threatened2010 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate IncreaseLowBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada5,000 - 50,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-April and late April and ends in late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Ferruginous Hawk, a specialist predator, is strongly tied to natural grasslands in the southern Prairie provinces. Populations of Ferruginous Hawk fluctuate with populations of Richardson's ground squirrels, their primary prey (COSEWIC 2008d). Poisoning of ground squirrels may have adverse effects on some local populations. Over 80% of all natural grassland habitat has been converted to intensive agricultural uses since the arrival of Europeans (WWFC 1989). Ferruginous Hawks are also sensitive to disturbance around the nest; breeding success may be lower around active oil and gas wells (COSEWIC 2008d). Nest setbacks of 500m established after the hatching period could help prevent human disturbances (Ng et al. 2017). Wind turbines have also become a concern for the species due to their habitat preferences, the height at which the birds fly, and the potential for nest disturbances (Ng et al. 2017). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation & Stewardship