Birds of a Different Colour: Ferruginous Hawk colour morphs on the Canadian Prairies

The Raptor Ecology and Conservation Team (REACT) is in the midst of the “trapping stage” of our 2014 field season. We trap adult male Ferruginous Hawks and attach solar powered GPS Satellite Transmitters which broadcast, to us via satellite, minute-by-minute hawk locations.


An adult male modelling his new transmitter. Photo Credit: Jesse Watson.

As of June 19th, Jesse Watson and his crew members have capturedand attached transmitters to 6 adult males in the interest of quantifying home range sizes, priority foraging and perching locations, and migratory pathways. Telemetry data will also be used to define critical habitat under the watch of Species at Risk Biologist, Dr. Troy Wellicome.

These data are enormously powerful and we are very fortunate to have a dataset with such a wealth of information from which we can derive a wide variety of complex and fascinating research questions.

Our trapping efforts have also yielded another interesting outcome. We have captured 2 Ferruginous Hawk “Dark Morphs”, a plumage color morph that deviates strongly from the typical Ferruginous Hawk morph (see above). Rather than the characteristic “ferruginous” rusty coloration and white belly, these birds exhibit dark plumages with minimal rusty reds mixed in (see below). The Dark Morph is said to make up only ~ 5 – 10 % of the population, so we consider ourselves lucky see these birds up close and personal.bdc2 bdc3


Contrasting dark morph (left) and light morph (right) Ferruginous Hawk captures in June 2014. Photo Credits to Adam Moltzahn.

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