Our first Christmas Bird Count will be coming up on December 14th in Fall River Mills so I thought I would take a drive up there to see what I could see as the day approaches. Rat Farm Road is a long gravel road leading from the small town of McArthur, through some sage/prairie habitat to Horr Pond and Big Lake. An excellent location to spot raptors.
I wasn’t disappointed. Besides the ever present Red-tailed Hawks, there were Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin and, my favorite, the Ferruginous Hawk. There is a long barbed wire fence that follows Rat Farm Road to its conclusion at the boat launch parking area with plenty of old wooden posts where raptors love to perch and look for prey. That’s where I spotted this juvenile hawk. Click on photos for full sized images.
I love these juvenile raptors because they are usually not concerned too much with slowly approaching vehicles. They seem somehow not to have yet learned that humans can be dangerous.
How do I know this is a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk? This light morph juvenile still has brown tipped feathers on its thighs rather than the distinctive rufous thighs and has yet to develop the rufous shoulders of the adult.
I took several photographs of this beauty as it flew off to hunt, sometimes flying up and kiting to come down on the prey…
then returning back to the perch, flying low to the ground.
Ferruginous Hawks prey primarily on jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits as well as ground squirrels and prairie dogs. You may often find them standing in an open field near a fresh dirt mound waiting for a ground squirrel to push soil close to the surface when it will pounce on the earthen heap and pull out its prey.
This youngster didn’t find what it was looking for and flew back up to the same post and gave me the raptor stare.
To see more cool bird photos check out Wild Bird Wednesday and The Bird D’pot.