Rough-legged Hawks

Rough-legged Hawk flying near a hillRough-legged Hawk flying near a hill – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 285mm, natural light, not baited

This year hasn’t provided me with as many opportunities to photograph Rough-legged Hawks as last winter did and before long these raptors will be heading to the high Arctic to find mates on their breeding grounds. I thought I would share some Rough-legged Hawk images taken the winter of 2011/2012 when they were very abundant today.

The young Roughy above had been perched on a Rabbitbrush high up on a hill and when it took off I was ready to photograph it as it came flying down the hillside.

Perched Rough-legged HawkPerched Rough-legged Hawk – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This Rough-legged Hawk posed nicely on a post giving me a wonderful profile view of its face that showed the sharp little bill and the wonderful plumage patterns these hawks have on their backs.

High Key lift off from signHigh Key lift off from sign – Nikon D300, f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 800, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 300mm, natural light, not baited

What I like about this image is how it shows how long the wings are on Rough-legged Hawks, I also enjoy the rather direct look I appear to be getting from this raptor. I wish it had been perched on a natural feature but the hawk picked where it landed, not I.

Rough-legged Hawk perched on post with Bison furRough-legged Hawk perched on post with Bison fur – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The stuff on top of the post in this frame that looks like material from a steel wool pad is actually Bison fur with frost on it left there after a Bison used the post for a good scratch. The Rough-legged Hawk didn’t seem to mind the Bison fur or the lady with the long lens photographing it.

I’ll keep trying to photograph the Rough-legged Hawks that are still here before they head north.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. My thanks to all of you for you much appreciated comments on this post and the images!

    Chris, I hope you get your Rough-legged Hawk images soon.

    Bonnie, I see that Libby did get some images of the Roughie there, I loved them!

    SeagullSteve, you are just going to have to make a road trip to Utah next winter so you can crush some Roughie images!

  2. I have zero photographs of this species. Hella envious…I only see a few of these (or less) a year.

  3. Hi! Beautiful shots and birds are so brilliant. Like the person taking the pictures! Have a great day

  4. Amazing captures, Mia! So crisp and clean, not to mention a beautiful subject! :)

  5. Saw sooo many hawks this weekend hunting over ravines next to highway.

  6. I like that highly contrasted plumage pattern and colour.

  7. Splendid photos!!!! thank you so much for sharing!!!

  8. Beautiful Hawk. Brilliant photography too.

  9. Last year I had better luck with Rough-legged Hawks too! Lovely photos, Mia!

  10. I love these hawks, Mia, and your photos. Although the fence post isn’t as nice as a natural perch for a portrait, at the least the hawk was accommodating. And the bison hair on the post is an interesting feature. I hope you get the chance to get a few shots this year before they head north. I’m looking forward to seeing a few Rough-legged Hawks when they pass through our area this spring as they migrate north.

  11. So jealous of the marvelous photos you have of these birds….they are one of my favorites and I still struggle trying to get a good shot. Your’s are amazing.

  12. Mia, we have a Roughy that spends a few weeks here during migration and is driving Libby crazy trying to photograph it. So thanks for your pics. They are always so beautiful.

  13. Stunning raptor! I love the shot showing the relative length of its wings. Beautiful photographs!

  14. Beautiful bird and shots! I’m glad you told us about the bison fur. I was wondering what it was before I read what you wrote! :)

  15. This is one beautiful hawk. I’ve only seen one this year down south. Of course no photos! We were on our way back home and I was driving. It was sitting perfectly on a fence post and……poof! Off went the hawk. I’m hoping to get some shots down the road. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and this bird are the only two I’ve counted without getting shots of…and it drives me nuts not to have the photo documentation on some of these amazing birds. Love your shots. Hope you find more:)

  16. You’re so fortunate to have such a diversity of hawks in your region!

  17. Mia, these are awesome shots. It is a beautiful hawk!

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