Artificial nests have been used in Alberta as a method to allow Ferruginous Hawks to nest in areas where trees are scarce, and to reduce the impacts of nest predation and
disturbance. Approximately 3% of Alberta's Ferruginous Hawk population currently uses artificial nests.
In the face of large-scale ecosystem changes over the last century the range of the Ferruginous Hawk has been reduced by almost half. Nevertheless, the
species has persisted in Alberta suggesting that the Ferruginous Hawk is fairly resilient, despite its dependence on native grasslands and specific prey. The existence of over 1 000 pairs, coupled with substantial genetic variability, suggests that the Ferruginous Hawk is not currently threatened with
extirpation in Alberta.
There can be little doubt that the key to the
conservation of the Ferruginous Hawk in Alberta lies in the protection of rangeland and the prairie wildlife community within it. More specifically, the survival of the Ferruginous Hawk in Alberta is closely linked to the perpetuity of large areas of contiguous
grasslands in southeastern Alberta managed under a traditional ranching economy. Generally, cattle grazing ensures
habitat that includes some apparently important elements for Ferruginous Hawks: large areas with low disturbance; and native range where plant species diversity is high and where some plant cover is available year-round for rodent prey.
While some optimism regarding the status of the Ferruginous Hawk in Alberta is warranted, the possibility of future population declines should not be dismissed.
The future of Alberta Ferruginous Hawks is not solely dependent on conditions in Alberta. In order to guarantee the survival of the Ferruginous Hawk, conservation initiatives must not only have a provincial focus but an inter-provincial and, indeed, an international dimension.
Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 18
with permission from Alberta
Sustainable Resource Development.