An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide – maryholland505@gmail.com

Rough-legged Hawks Returning

It’s time to keep an eye out for Rough-legged Hawks (Buteo lagopus) which are currently migrating south from their breeding grounds on the arctic tundra to spend the winter in northern states. They look for habitat similar to the open habitat they left – agricultural fields, meadows, and airports fit the bill well.  In Vermont, the Champlain Valley is a known winter destination. You see them on the ground, perched on fence posts, telephone poles and tree tops, as well as hovering in the air as they forage for small rodents below.

As to their common name, the “rough-legged” refers to the feathers that grow down their legs to the base of their toes, a clever adaptation for the cold climates they inhabit. Rough-legged Hawks come in two color morphs, light and dark.  North America is the only place where the dark morph is found, and it is more common in the East than the light morph.  The dark belly of the light morph Rough-legged Hawk pictured indicates that it is a female.

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3 responses

  1. Bill on the Hill

    I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered this hawk before Mary, quite beautiful…
    The other guest from the Arctic regions I haven’t seen for a couple years now is the Northern Shrike, i.e. the butcher bird, aka the striker… As you already know, it is a small bird with a tiny raptor beak…I think I shared a picture with you on it some years back now…
    I think some of our domestic owls grow feathers all the way down their legs too…
    Bill on the Hill… :~)

    November 15, 2021 at 8:10 am

  2. Alice

    Good Hawk info, that I didn’t know. We recently had a hawk, perched on a branch about 10′ from the livingroom window…got a photo.

    November 15, 2021 at 8:16 am

  3. Laura Andrews

    What a stunning picture! Thanks for your great eye and steady hand!

    November 15, 2021 at 11:52 am

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