Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
(Buteo lagopus)

Order:  Accipitriformes
Family:  Accipitridae

Photo credit: USFWS

Rough-legged Hawk Information

Length:  19 - 23"

Breeding: Open tundra and open mountainous areas. Prefers habitat with cliffs or rocky areas for nesting.

Winter: Farmland, marshes, dunes, and other open country. Can sometimes be found roosting in open coniferous woodlands.

Diet:  Mostly small mammals such as mice, voles, and lemmings; sometimes, small rabbits; birds, some carrion, and occasionally insects.

  Calls of the Rough-legged Hawk

Additional Photos and Information

Rough-legged Hawk
Information on habitat, diet, feeding behavior, nesting and migration. Includes range maps and the calls of this bird. (From Audubon Field Guide)

Photos of Rough-legged Hawk
From Peter LaTourrette's Bird Photo Gallery

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk


Rough-legged Hawk
Identification Tips

  • Large buteo
  • Long, broad, rounded wings
  • Hooked beak
  • Broad tail
  • Yellow legs and cere
  • Sometimes hovers in flight
  • Wings held in slight dihedral
Light morph adult
  • Wide, dark, subterminal tail band
  • Upperparts dark brown with some mottling
  • Dark wrist contrasting with mottled wing linings and paler flight feathers
  • Females have darker bellies than males; males have darker breasts
Dark morph adult
  • Very dark plumage
  • Flight feathers barred and paler than wing linings
  • Dark trailing edge to flight feathers
  • Dark wrist
  • Broad, dark, subterminal band on tail
  • Female has white base to tail; male has dark tail

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Rough-legged Hawk
Breeding Range

The rough-legged hawks that we see in New England breed in the arctic tundra of North America and migrate southward after breeding season.

Rough-legged Hawk
Range Maps from Cornell

Rough-legged Hawk breeding, migration, and nonbreeding range

Includes separate map of sightings.

Rough-legged Hawk
Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS