The Rough-legged Hawk
A Rough-legged Hawk is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Rough-legged Hawks. We have also put together a list of fun Rough-legged Hawk t-shirts, Rough-legged Hawk bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.
About Rough-legged Hawks
The Rough-legged Hawk is a medium to large bird of prey native to North America. It is also known as the Rough-legged Buzzard. They are mainly spotted in the Arctic but also found in Eurasia during the breeding season. The hawk is a migratory bird as they migrate to the south during the winter season. Their local population in the Arctic fluctuates, attributed to the fluctuating population of rodents. Their average numbers are healthy.
Description and Identification
Rough-legged Hawks are medium-large birds that are 18-24 inches long, with a wingspan ranging
from 47-60 inches. These birds can weigh up to 3.66 pounds. Female rough-legged Hawks are
larger than males. Rough-legged Hawks that live in the northern part of their range are also
generally larger than the hawks that live in the southern portion of the range. These birds have a
dark brown plumage that is heavily speckled. A wide variety of plumage patterns can be observed
in these birds. Light-morphs, dark-morphs, males, females, and juveniles all have differently
colored plumages. One needs to be very knowledgeable to differentiate these birds according to
their plumage patterns. All rough-legged Hawks have long white tail feathers which are colored
with multiple dark subterminal bands. Their wing’s tips are so long that they can extend further
outwards than their tails when they are perched. Rough-legged Hawks are amongst very few
hawks of such size that have the capability of hovering over one spot for long and regular periods.
Rough-legged Hawk Color Pattern
They have a predominant brown plumage and show a great degree of speckling. They have a broad brown chest band on their plumage and a square dark carpel that contrasts with their white underwing. The patterns may vary with different morphs of the bird thus requires extensive field experience to be able to identify the birds.
Rough-legged Hawk Size
They are fairly large birds among other types of birds in the raptor category. Their length is 46-60cm and wingspan ranges 120-153cm. Their body weight ranges from 600 to 1660g.
Rough-legged Hawk Behavior
Rough-legged Hawks are active during the day, especially at dawn and dusk. As a bird watcher, you could find them in their habitats perched on utility poles and lines. They gracefully fly close to the ground flapping and gliding and they hover towards the wind helping them stay stagnant in the sky for a while as they search for prey.
These Hawks defend their winter territories and could spend their nights alone roosting. They are monogamous but only for the breeding season.
Rough-legged Hawk Food
During summer and spring, Rough-legged Hawks mostly sustain on a diet that includes small
rodents such as voles and lemmings. Other animals they eat during this time are medium-sized
mammals such as young hares, pocket gophers, and arctic ground squirrels. During winter, these
birds mainly eat shrews, miles, and voles. Rough-legged Hawks have also been observed to
consume birds such as Lapland Longspurs and ptarmigans. Rough-legged Hawks either pursue
their prey midair or swoop down and catch their prey with their talons. Fence posts, haystacks,
trees, and poles are all common perching spots for Rough-legged Hawks. In certain cases, rough-
legged Hawks have been observed stealing prey from other birds.
They are carnivorous birds that mainly feed on rodents. During their breeding season in the Arctic, they feed on voles and lemmings. They also eat small birds, frogs, and the occasional insects.
Rough-legged Hawk Habitat
Rough-legged Hawks inhabit open countries during their breeding season. Their nests are generally
built on cliffs and crops in alpine regions, uplands, boreal forests, and treeless tundra. If the prey is
especially abundant, their range might extend more southwards into the forested taiga. If their habitats
are very densely covered with trees, they seek clearings and open bogs for hunting. During winters
these hawks reside in habitats such as semi-deserts, fields, bogs, marshes, dunes, and prairies.
The Rough-legged Hawks can be found in the open country of the Arctic, Eurasia, and northern regions of North America. Nesting is dominant in cliffs and outcroppings of low-lying boreal forests. They can also be seen in tundra escarpments, artic coasts over winter, and open fields as well as marshland.
Range and Migration
Rough-legged Hawks or rough-legged buzzards are birds of prey commonly found in Russia,
Europe, and the Arctic and Subarctic regions of North America during the breeding season. These
birds are widespread in Canada and the United States. During winter, Rough-legged Hawks
migrate south. In winter these birds can be found throughout the U.S except in a few states such
as North Carolina.
Rough-legged Hawk Life Cycle
Usually, 3-4 eggs can be laid by the female. They keep the eggs in incubation for roughly 31 days. The young are fed by both parents then after 5-6 weeks, they leave the nest. They have a lifespan of about 2 years.
Rough-legged Hawk Nesting
Rough-legged Hawks form pairs once they reach the breeding sites. Males court females by
soaring in circles until the females join them. Both members of the pair build a nest after they have
identified the right site on top of a rocky cliff. The nests of these birds are generally very exposed.
Female Rough-legged Hawks lay up to 2-7 eggs which need to be incubated for 31 days. Nestlings
do not leave the nests for up to 40 days after hatching.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Rough-legged Hawks
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Rough-legged Hawks are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Rough-legged Hawk T-shirts
If you love the Rough-legged Hawk you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Rough-legged Hawk Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Rough-legged Hawk is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Rough-legged Hawk Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Rough-legged Hawk. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Rough-legged Hawks
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Rough-legged Hawks
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.