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March is Hawk Month

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Today is the first day of HAWK month here at Calgary Wildlife! All this March we will be featuring fun and interesting facts about our native hawk species.


ferruginous hawk for hawk month

Here in Alberta we commonly see four main hawk species:

- Ferruginous Hawk

- Harrier Hawk

- Red Tailed Hawk

- Swainson's Hawk


Did you know that the Ferruginous hawk is on Alberta's endangered species list?


Ferruginous hawk one of alberta's endangered species

The Ferruginous Hawk population in North America is now only a quarter of what it was in the early 1900’s, and its range is only half of what it was in the past. The loss of and fragmentation of its habitat, native grasslands, are a serious threat to the population. Ferruginous Hawks also suffer from a lack of nest sites as more and more trees are cut down in their habitat.



They are also threatened by human activity and the loss of prey, particularly our Richardson’s ground squirrels.


Thankfully the species is protected by the Canada National Parks Act in the Grasslands National Park of Canada and is also protected under Alberta’s Wildlife Act and the Manitoba Endangered Species Act.


Stay tuned for more information about all of our high flying hawks, coming all this month.



 

For our second post for hawk month, let's talk about the reasons that WE LOVE HAWKS here at Calgary Wildlife, and why you should too!


We live in the lands of the rolling prairies here in Alberta, and living within our hills, grasslands, and farms are many little creatures whose populations can get out of hand if left unchecked. Thankfully, we have our birds of prey, also known as raptors, including our native hawk species to keep them under control. Now that's a great reason to love hawks!



Hawks are excellent hunters and provide much needed pest control


Not only are hawks useful to us humans for pest control, but their purpose-built features are just awe inspiring. Hawks feature tough, hooked beaks and sharp, curved talons which make them experts at catching and devouring snacks like mice, ground squirrels, small birds, snakes and other rodents.




But more than anything else, their amazing eyesight is the key to their hunting success. By using their binocular vision, hawks can spot tiny animals from all the way up in the sky. Did you know that a rough-legged hawk can spot prey from 100 feet away?



Rough-legged hawks can spot [prey from 100ft away


Lastly, we love hawks because the presence of raptors like hawks in the wild serves as a barometer of ecological health. Hawks are predators at the top of the food chain; because threats like pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change have the most dramatic impact on top predators, we refer to them as indicator species.


These birds deserve our respect as well as our admiration for all that they do.

Stay tuned for our last HAWK MONTH post coming soon.



 

Look up in the sky, we can often see birds of prey doing their thing, but have you ever wondered if that majestic bird you are seeing is a hawk or a falcon?


For our final HAWK MONTH post, let's explore the differences between our hawk and falcon species here in Alberta.


Alberta’s hawks and falcons can often be tough to tell apart, especially considering we usually see them from our vantage point of far below them, as they soar up in the sky.


We have already talked about our native hawk species, which include the Swainsons Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Harrier Hawk.


However, Alberta is also home to several species of falcon, including the American Kestral, Merlin Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon.



How to tell Falcons and Hawks apart from each other


Here are a few clues to help you identify whether you are seeing a hawk or a falcon up in our Alberta’s skies.


Clue #1: Even with a quick glance, you can see the hawk’s wings are short, wide, and rounded, and the falcon’s wings are long, slender, and pointed.


Clue #2: While hawks can dive pretty fast to catch their prey, some falcons, such as the Peregrine Falcon, can reach diving speeds up to 300 kilometres an hour. Their prey hardly stands a chance.


Clue #3: Size is often the most obvious difference. Hawks most often measure between 18 and 30 inches long. Falcons are typically 8 to 26 inches.


Clue #4: Head shape can also be telling. At first glance, you might think the hawk and the falcon have very similar head shapes. And they do until you take a closer look. Examine the outline minus the beak, and you’ll see the hawk’s head is slender and pointy, whereas the falcon’s head is round and short.



Hawk standing in a field from Calgary Wildlife

There is so much more to learn and appreciate about hawks and all of Alberta’s raptors!


Check out our patient stories on our blog for even more hawk and raptor information. https://www.calgarywildlife.org/patient-stories


Better yet, sponsor a hawk patient!






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