Rough-legged Hawk

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Image:RoughleggedHawk.jpg

Common Name: Rough-legged Hawk or Buzzard
Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus

Size: 18.5-20.5 inches (47-52 cm); Wingspan: 52-54.3 inches (132-138 cm)

Habitat: Palearctic region;.breeds in tundra and taiga habitats of North America and Eurasia between the latitudes of 61° and 76° N. Rough-legged hawks occurring in North America migrate to the central United States for the winter, while Eurasian individuals migrate to southern Europe and Asia. During these winter months, from November to March, preferred habitats include marshes, prairies and agricultural regions where rodent prey is most abundant

Status: Least Concern. Global population: >500,000 adult individuals with a stable population trend. National population sizes outside the North America have been estimated at < 1,000 wintering individuals in Korea and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs in Russia.

Diet: Mostly small mammals with lemmings and voles comprising up to 80–90% of their prey, but this varies with seasonal availability. The rough-legged hawk will also supplement its diet with mice, rats, gerbils, pikas and insects. Besides mammals, birds are the second most favored type of prey, such as snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis), Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) and American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea).

They hunt during the daytime.Like most hawks, they use two forms of hunting; still-hunting (watching for prey from a perch and then stooping) and watching for prey while in flight. Unlike most other large raptors, they may engage in hovering flight above the ground while searching for prey.

Nesting: Sexes are alike with females being larger. The plumage is predominantly brown in color and often shows a high degree of speckling. A broad brown chestband is present in most plumages and a square dark carpal patch contrasting with the white under-wing is an easily identifiable characteristic in light morph individuals. There are a wide variety of plumage patterns are exhibited in light vs. dark morphs, males vs. females and adults vs. juveniles and they can easily be confused with the Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and the Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Distinguishing characteristics in all plumages include long white tail feathers with one or more dark subterminal bands. The wing tips are long enough to reach or extend past the tail when the animal is perched. The common buzzard can be similar-looking, with a similar long-tailed shape and can be notoriously variable in plumage. The rough-legged is longer-winged and more eagle-like in appearance. The red-tailed hawk is chunkier-looking and differs in its darker head, broader, shorter wings, barring on the wings and the tail, dark leading edge to the wings (rather than black wrist patch) and has no white base to the tail. The Ferruginous Hawk is larger, with a bigger, more prominent bill and has a whitish comma at the wrist and all-pale tail

Nests are built soon after arrival to breeding grounds and require 3–4 weeks to complete. Twigs, sedges and old feathers are used as building materials. They sometimes contains the bones of caribou along with sticks. Nests are 60–90 cm (24–35 in) in diameter and 25–60 cm (9.8–23.6 in) in height. Cliff ledges and rocky outcroppings are preferred nesting sites.

Females can typically lay 3–5 eggs. The incubation period is 31 days, provided almost exclusively by the female. The male feeds the female during this incubation period. After hatching, young require 4–6 weeks before fledging the nest. Fledglings depend on parents to provide food for 2–4 weeks after leaving the nest.

Cool Facts: The name "Rough-legged" Hawk refers to the feathered legs. It is the only member of its diverse genus found in both of the Northern continents and has a complete circumpolar distribution.


Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume 5: Falcons, Hawks & Eagles

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