Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis) are a species of national conservation concern, but no previous research had been conducted with this species on Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB). A study was conducted in 2008-09 and again in 2010-11, aimed at determining the species distribution, estimated population, and habitat/prey requirements of Ferruginous Hawks on KAFB.
Routes were designed to survey suitable habitat and to document raptor abundance, distribution, and behavior. Habitat usage and annual occurrence was analyzed for each species. Ferruginous Hawks and ten other raptor species were recorded during surveys, including Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Prairie Falcon.
The highest density of raptors was recorded in the yellow survey route. This route included the cantonment area, areas adjacent to the runway and airfield, and the sensitive areas of Pad 5 and KUMSC. The American Kestrel and Red-tailed Hawk were the most common species observed on KAFB. Raptor density in all four surveyed areas was higher during 2010-11 than during 2008-09.
The habitat of KAFB is valuable for many wildlife species, and is unique to its surroundings for reasons including lack of pressure from agriculture, cattle grazing, or major housing developments. In total, the base as wintering grounds was used by eight of the eleven study species. The base as stopover habitat during migration was used by all eleven study species. Seven study species were observed showing breeding behaviors or nesting on KAFB.
Although uncommon, Ferruginous Hawks were observed on KAFB year round, using the base as wintering grounds, as stopover habitat during migration, and as part of their home range during the breeding season. One banded adult female Ferruginous Hawk wintered in the cantonment area of KAFB during both the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11.