Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Most common hawk of the American arctic.
HABITAT: Inhabits open tundra and mountainsides; does not inhabit forests unless there is much open ground. Essentially an open country dweller that occupies a large range in its seasonal wanderings. In winter, prefers conifer groves for roosting and open, treeless areas for hunting.
NEST: Nests primarily on cliffs along river bluffs, but is flexibile in selecting nesting substrate. Locates nests usually under overhangs on rocky cliffs, outcroppings, and ledges; occasionally nests in stunted trees or on the ground. Often returns to the same nest for many years.
FOOD: Hunts for food in wet meadows, bogs, and riparian areas. Generally seeks prey from the air rather than from a perch. Microtine rodents such as brown lemming, collared lemming, tundra vole, Alaska vole, red-backed vole, and other small mammals comprise the bulk of the diet. Shifts to other prey when rodents become scarce. Also consumes young ptarmigan, arctic ground squirrels, and sometimes small rabbits. During the breeding season, may consume up to 20 percent of diet as birds; during winter, consumes mammalian prey almost exclusively.
REFERENCES: Heintzelman 1979, Sprunt 1955, Terres 1980, White and Cade 1971, Zarn 1975.