This species is a large, broad-winged hawk of the open, arid grasslands, prairie and shrub country. This is the largest of the Buteos and is often mistaken for an eagle due to its size, proportions, and behavior. Perhaps this is due to their leg feathers that go all the way to their toes, a trait shared by only two other American birds, the rough-legged hawk and the golden eagle.
The ferruginous hawk primarily hunts small to medium-sized mammals but will also take birds, reptiles, and some insects. The diet varies somewhat geographically, and the black-tailed jackrabbit is also a major food species along with ground squirrels and pocket gophers.
Before the elimination of bison in the West, nests of the ferruginous hawk were often partially constructed of bison bones and wool.
The average clutch is 3-4 eggs, but can be up to 8. Ground nests are prey for coyotes and 66% of these hawks die within the first 12 months.