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Rough-legged Hawk

Silhouette HawksHawks
Rough-legged HawkButeo lagopus
  • ORDER: Accipitriformes
  • FAMILY: Accipitridae

Basic Description

The Rough-legged Hawk spends the summer capturing lemmings on the arctic tundra, tending a cliffside nest under a sun that never sets. Winter is the time to see this large, open-country hawk in southern Canada and the U.S., where it may be perched on a pole or hovering over a marsh or pasture on the hunt for small rodents. Found globally across northern latitudes, this species occurs in both light and dark forms.

More ID Info
image of range map for Rough-legged Hawk
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Because Rough-legged Hawks breed in the Arctic, your best bet for finding one near you is to wait until winter. Keep an eye out in open country, looking especially for a large, chunky raptor hovering while facing into the wind—familiar in style to the much smaller and daintier American Kestrel and White-tailed Kite. Rough-legged Hawks perch on fence posts and utility poles, as well as on the ground or on the slenderest treetops, where other large raptors rarely chance sitting. Watch for them on winter road trips, as their bold tail and underwing pattern, as well as black belly patches, can often be clearly seen—even at highway speeds.

Other Names

  • Busardo Calzado (Spanish)
  • Buse pattue (French)
  • Cool Facts