Monday, September 14, 2009

Species Profile: Rough-legged Hawk

One of the reasons I look forward to Winter in Ohio
(and really, wintering raptors are the only reason to go birding when it's cold):

Rough-legged Hawk
Buteo lagopus

This large buteo species (hawk with long wings and short tail) is a denizen of the tundra and taiga regions around the Northern Hemisphere, with nearly holarctic distribution.

rough legged hawk 2
Armleder Park, December 2007, by me
Light morph

  • Large buteo
  • Long and broad wings
  • Two distinct color morphs with multiple variations in between
  • Flight feathers pale, with dark trailing edges on wings
  • Obvious black marks at wrists
Length: 19-24 inches
Wing span: 4-4.5 feet
Weight: 2-2.5 pounds
The female is typically larger than the male.

Rough-legged hawks have eight different morphs that vary between sex, age, and location. Both sexes exhibit both light and dark morphs; and coloration varies between juveniles and adults:
  • All adult morphs have a black band that goes along the edges of the underside of their lesser coverts. Adults also all have dark colored eyes. Juveniles have light colored eyes and a dark band along the underside of their wings.
  • Light morphs of adult females have brown backs and a pattern of increased markings from breast to belly. They have one dark tail band and heavily marked leg feathers. Light-morph adult males have grayish backs. Their breasts are more heavily marked than the belly and there are multiple bands on the tail. A light-morph adult male has heavily-marked leg feathers.

Rough legged hawk 4

The rough-legged hawk spends its breeding season in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia. A bird who prefers wide open spaces with little or no tree cover, it migrates south in Winter.

Mostly small mammals like lemmings, occasionally reptiles, amphibians, small birds and carrion.
This hawk (the osprey is another) is one of the few raptors who routinely hover while hunting.

(See below...I took this photo while the hawk was actively hunting, "kiting" directly over me on strong cold winds...
...the bird was not moving...and was staring directly into my eyes)

Rough legged hawk 1

Drawn-out, downward "kaaaar."

Rough-legged hawks build their bowl-like stick nests on cliffs and sometimes trees. They sometimes incorporate caribou bones into their nest structure.

Clutch size: 1-7 eggs (Incubation begins with the first egg, so hatching times are staggered. In years of low lemming population, only the oldest chicks survive)

Photo by BirdGirl
Look at that face. I want to knit a cozy for it.

My first and only rough-legged hawk was seen at Armleder Park. The grace of these birds lifts my heart. Come on, Winter!!!


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Susan, I'm going to say it again gently.
You need to come to Minnesota in the winter.
We have Rough-legged Hawks here in winter.
We have really good birds here in winter.
We have the BEST owls here in winter.
Ruthie will teach you to knit a cozy for baby hawks here.
Katdoc's coming this winter.
She is not afraid of our winter.

Susan Gets Native said...

Baby girl, if I can come up with the money to do both Minnesooooota and New River next year, I will come.
Is Kathi coming in February? To do the Sax-Zim thing?
If I do come, be prepared to say twice your prayers every night, because I will constantly be saying, "F ***!!!! It's f***ing cold up here!!!"

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Kathi is coming in February for the Sax-Zim Bog.
So is Tim.
Should I list thr birds you'd see?

Beth said...

ooooo...hawks. Love 'em. Oooooooo...The Flock. Love 'em, too.


Mary said...

Two days ago I first said, "flapping turkey vulture", then I noticed the color. Nope not a vulture - a hawk and I do believe I saw the rough legs, Susan!

dguzman said...

These guys are supposed to be fairly common out here, but I haven't seen one yet. And he IS staring right into your soul, man. That'll change you.

dguzman said...

Oh wait--I have to wait for Winter too. And I don't think I'll be here.... hmph.

RuthieJ said...

I saw one of these gorgeous hawks about 4 years ago -- on a sunny day in January. It was gorgeous.
Come on up Susan, don't be sofa king wussy! I'll knit you socks AND a neck cozy! ;-)