As natural environments become increasingly modified by humans, land managers should devise plans to protect sensitive species from human activities that disturb these species. We explored behavioral responses of nesting ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis) to an approaching human in areas where the level of human activity on the landscaped varied. Contrary to other reports, hawks were aggressive in nest defense and female hawks defended nests more aggressively than male hawks. Adult hawks decreased nest-defense intensity as nestling age increased but increased intensity with consecutive human visits to the nest. Flushing distance was considerably higher than that documented in other studies and was negatively related to degree of urbanization. We found that a distance of 650 m prevented 95% of nest-attending ferruginous hawks from flushing in response to human intruders; thus we recommend establishing a spatial buffer of this distance or greater to minimize adverse effects of human activities on hawks nesting in New Mexico. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.