Ferruginous Hawk at Prairie State Park

December 1, 2020 | News

Prairie State Park in Barton County, MO had an interesting avian visitor last week—a young ferruginous hawk! It was first identified by Vivek Govind Kumar on November 23rd, and has been reported each day through the 29th. Thanks to eBird, Facebook groups, listservs, and text chains, word spread and birders flocked to the prairie to see this rare bird and tick another species off their life lists.
Ferruginous hawks are the largest North American raptors in the genus Buteo. According to the American Bird Conservancy, these hawks rely on open grasslands and original prairies, where they hunt for small mammal prey. Hunting techniques include perching to watch for prey, soaring high or flying low across a field to scan, or sitting on the ground near rodent burrows waiting for the prey to come out. Think Whack-A-Mole!
These impressive hawks are usually found in the western half of North America, ranging from California to western Kansas, but are occasionally found in Missouri. There have been fewer than 10 verified ferruginous hawks reported in Missouri in the fall in the last 60 years, according to Mark Robins’ Status and Distribution of Birds in Missouri book and recent Missouri Birding Society reports.
Why Missouri? Because of the habitat! Missouri’s 60,000 scattered acres of remnant prairie, including Prairie State Park, provide habitat for rare visiting birds, but also resident and migratory birds all year around. Eastern meadowlarksloggerhead shrikesnorthern flickers, and many other species utilize prairie habitat for at least parts of their life cycles.
— Brooke Widmar, MPF Director of Administrative Operations & Member Engagement
Photos: Ferruginous hawk by Vivek Govind Kumar courtesy Macaulay Library

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