Although information on historical ferruginous hawk numbers and distribution are limited, they were once considered a regular but uncommon nesting species in grasslands throughout southern Manitoba from the Red River west. Still relatively common in the Carberry area in the early 1920s, it was noted that populations were declining rapidly due to settlement, breaking of the prairies, and egg collecting. After 1930, the species vanished in Manitoba and they were not noticed again until the 1970s, when the occasional bird was sighted. In 1982, the first nesting pair in over 60 years was found in extreme southwestern Manitoba. By 1990, the number of nesting pairs in Manitoba had increased to 56 with nesting evidence as far east as Glenboro and Cartwright and north to Brandon and Kenton.
The resurgence of its population in extreme southwestern Manitoba combined with management programs and enlightened public attitudes towards raptors in general throughout prairie Canada resulted in the species' Canadian status being downlisted from "Threatened" to "Vulnerable" by COSEWIC . Manitoba's nesting population has remained stable at 48-55 pairs throughout much of the 1990s, but recent declines in its main prey item, the Richardson's ground squirrel, have resulted in reduced nesting success and a decline in the number of nesting pairs to 38 in 1999. Concerns over the stability of extensive grassland areas in Manitoba and ferruginous hawk populations have warranted its continued inclusion on Manitoba's Threatened species list.
Monitoring and management programs by Manitoba Conservation to ensure that nesting populations remain stable have been ongoing in the mid-1980s. The provision of nesting structures (e.g. wire baskets filled with sticks) has provided safer, more secure nesting sites. In Manitoba, artificial nests have been used by over two-thirds of nesting pairs during recent years. Since pairs are usually intolerant of visits to the nest during the early part of the nesting cycle and will desert their nests if disturbed, artificial nests are placed in large trees far removed from potential disturbance factors. Landowners also appreciate the comeback of the ferruginous hawk since each pair consumes hundreds of ground squirrels during the nesting season.
For more information on the ferruginous hawk view the Manitoba's Species at Risk brochure (PDF document, 247 KB).