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Diets of Grassland Hawks

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Some hawks are particularly associated with grasslands, seldom venturing far from them, while others are generalists, as happy in a forest as in a field. In all cases, these skilled fliers utilize their unparalleled vision to find prey and their bone-slicing talons to grasp it. While rodents are especially important prey for grassland hawks, the snakes, lizards, birds and insects living alongside them must be wary of hawks as well.

Primary Prey

Rodents such as ground squirrels (Spermophilus sp.), pocket gophers (Thomomys sp.) and meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) form a significant portion of the diet of grassland hawks. This is true of species particularly associated with grasslands -- notably ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis) and Swainson’s hawks (B. swainsoni), red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii) and other generalists who are only passing through. Other important prey species include rabbits (Lepus sp.), black racers (Coluber constrictor), gopher snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus), skinks (Plestiodon sp.), northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) and insects -- especially grasshoppers (Orthoptera).