Ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis) have light and dark morphs or variations. The light-morph is more common. The light-morph ferruginous hawk is recognized by its rusty upper parts, pale head with variable grey or rufous streaks and white underparts. The legs are barred rufous .
The rare dark-morph ferruginous hawk is dark brown all over with lighter areas on the wings. Without a photograph to study I would probably have a difficult time identifying a dark-morph in the field.
Ferruginous hawks inhabit the open grasslands, prairies and shrub steppes in the western part of North America. Because of habitat loss, shooting and programs to poison ground squirrels and prairie dogs its status is currently considered threatened.
The summer and winter ranges of ferruginous hawks abut where Leonard and I live in Northern California. We are fortunate to see this large buteo hawk throughout the year.
This light-morph ferruginous hawk was perched on a pole along County Road 91 near Lookout CA (Modoc County), probably searching for its next meal – a jackrabbit, cottontail, ground squirrel or gopher.