Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
STATUS: Common; population is stable or declining slowly.
HABITAT: Inhabits the semiarid western plains and arid intermountain regions; prefers relatively unbroken terrain, with scattered trees, rock outcrops, or tall trees along creek bottoms available for nesting sites. Generally winters on the southern plains.
SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open country with elevated nesting sites.
NEST: Prefers tall trees for nesting; will use a wide variety of sites, including ground nests on riverbed mounds, cutbanks, low hills, buttes and small cliffs, in short trees in open country, powerline structures, and haystacks. Tree nests are usually in the upper canopy, from 6 to 55 feet above ground. Nests are often used year after year.
FOOD: Hunts from a perch, while soaring, during low, rapid flight over open country, or while systematically searching and hovering at 40 to 60 feet. One study found its diet to be 70 percent mammals, 27 percent birds, and 3 percent reptiles. Feeds primarily on rabbits, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs; also takes mice, rats, gophers, birds, snakes, locusts, and crickets.
REFERENCES: Blair and Schitoskey 1982, Evans 1982, Heintzelman 1979, Snow 1974a, Sprunt 1955, Tate and Tate 1982, Weston 1969, Woffinden and Murphy 1983.