Eureka! The Rough-legged Hawks are back from their high subarctic and Arctic breeding grounds and they seem to be showing up in larger numbers than I have seen them since I moved to Utah. I have had few opportunities to photograph this handsome raptor and I am hoping to have more chances to do so this winter.
Rough-legged Hawks are thought to be nomadic in that they move about in response to the availability of prey. Rough-legged Hawks are one of only two species of hawks in North America that have feathers down to their feet, Ferruginous Hawks also have feathered legs.
Roughies have small bills, small feet and short broad heads. Their plumage coloration is widely variable from very dark to pale creamy tones. The dark morph is less common here in the west with only about 10% of the population having the darker plumage. Two years ago I spotted a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk in northern Utah but it was too far away to get decent images of, that figures, right? All I got was ID shots.
Now, if only I can get good light and plenty of Rough-legged Hawks while they are here this winter.
PS, the meaning of lagopus is derived from ancient Greek, is “hare-footed”, a very fitting description of the legs of this hawk.