English and Scientific names:

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis)

Number of individuals: 




Specific Locality:

Hwy 82, about 1 mile E of Johnsons Bayou

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

Ca. 7:20 a.m.-8:05 a.m.

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Mac Myers

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)

James Beck found and reported it a few days before.  As far as I know it was unreported in the interim.  It was seen by scores of people later on 10/30, and I believe reported on 10/31.  Perhaps the bird will winter.

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

First seen to the S of the highway, with sun coming up in SE, so light was at a good angle.  

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10s, Nikon Fieldscope III ED (incl. with point and shoot camera and video camera), Nikon D50 w/200 mm lens, .

Distance to bird(s): 

Initially at 300-400 yards, down to 50 yards or so after it relocated.

Duration of observation:

Ca. 30-45 minutes.


Initially in scattered trees off the highway, then in lagre oaks and telephone poles around a petroleum facility. 

Behavior of bird: 

Very interesting.  We were checking off hawks on the ride west, and saw a strange hawk in the distance.  It was white-headed and appeared to have a non-Red-tail head shape, and look huge and oddly shaped.  We stopped to get a better look, and through the scope, as I was watching its head, another head popped out of its back and started preening its mantle. The odd shape was due to the fact that it was perched immediately next to a Red-tail. Their proximity was surprising to us, given the combative nature of hawks on territory.  Perhaps territoriality is reduced during migration, or when a large number of hawks are present and a small number of perches are available? Pure conjecture. Both later dived for prey in the same area, perhaps for the same prey item.


After this dive, the R-t perched on a dead tree, and then was displaced by the Ferruginous.  After a few minutes, the Ferruginous took flight to the N, crossed the highway, and landed in the trees around the petroleum facility and Public Library trailer.  It was fairly tolerant of our presence.


Probably hundreds of images of this bird were taken, but I’ll describe it in case the words outlive the images.


Large hawk, larger than Red-tailed (RT). In gross appearance, neck seemed longer and thicker than RT, head seemed relatively smaller, or more elongate, with bill more pronounced and eagle-like. Body was bulky.  Wings reached about 2/3 of the way to tail-tip.


From a great distance, head appeared white. Through the scope, in the sunlight, the white was brilliant, but the dark post-ocular line and thick, dark brown streaking on the hindneck was apparent. Also visible even from afar was the bright yellow cere, and a white line running down the folded wing.  Once the bird perched facing us, white tarsal feathering was apparent above the bright yellow feet.  We felt we could see a slight rusty wash on the mantle.


Up closer, greater detail was visible. The head had a white ground color, with a dark eye-line running back from eye, and perhaps slightly onto lores. A white supercilium ran above this, topped by a cap of brownish peppering to the crown.  This brownish peppering ran down the back of the head, until it was met with a strong hind-collar of even-width white and dark brown streaks. The head seemed somewhat flat-topped in certain poses.  The bill was large, well-hooked at the tip, and black.  The cere was bright yellow, running back into a bright yellow gape. There appeared to be a vertical line of feathering between the eye and the back edge of the cere.  Eye looked pale yellow.


 Mantle was fairly solidly medium-dark brown.  Mantle feathers had dark centers, but rusty margins.  Folded wings were mostly dark, with the most visible exception being the pale bases of the (median?) coverts. These feather seemed to be evenly demarcated between a white basal half and a dark distal half. The distal half was dark centered with a rusty fringe. Greater coverts looked to be fringed in white at the tips. Flight feathers about the same color as back, except folded primaries from above seemed paler, frostier.


Underparts bright white.  Flanks had a few dark speckles—small dark tips to white feathers.   Leg feathering all or mostly white, with thick leggings above “knee” and short feathering below.  Tail from above, folded, seemed the same color as mantle.  Opened in flight, however, the tail was obviously pale with a somewhat broad vague duskier terminal band.


Underwings bright white.  No patagial mark as in RT, simply scattered darker specks scattered in a pattern I wasn’t able to see well in life or on photos.


In flight, the hawk was somewhat reminiscent of a Caracara, with bright flashes in the primaries, head, and tail.  The mantle was darker and browner than the back, primaries with pale windows (but dark tips), middle of wing intermediate between mantle and primaries.



Not heard.

Similar species:

Extent of leg feathering excludes most similar species (e.g. RT).  Rough-legged Hawk by overall pattern. 

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?


Previous experience with this species: 

A little.  I’ve seen a few out west, all ages, and 4 in Louisiana. 

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 


Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 



Date and time: