Rough-legged Hawks

Rough-legged Hawk Rough-legged Hawk  – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

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.

Rough-legged Hawks 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.


  1. Skip Harris November 18, 2011 at 8:02 am

    What a beautiful raptor! The eyes remind me of White-tailed Kite eyes. Love it. I am glad you are getting the great opportunities to capture images like this because I makes my day to see them.

    Skip Harris

    • Mia McPherson November 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks as always for your very kind words Skip.

  2. Larry Jordan November 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    A beautiful shot of the Rough-legged Hawk Mia! I have no photographs of this bird yet though they show up in the winter here in the higher elevations around Fall River Mills in Shasta County. We see them on the Christmas Bird Count there every year. I look forward to more photos of this gorgeous raptor from you and hope to maybe capture some myself next month!

    • Mia McPherson November 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

      Thanks Larry, I hope you get some photographs of this handsome raptor next month during the CBC. Just a few days ago I was able to get some Roughie images taken while they were in flight. I’ll be posting those soon too.

  3. Bob Zeller November 15, 2011 at 7:59 am

    A beautiful photograph, Mia. If a Rough-legged Hawk showed up around here, it would be a rarity, but not an impossibility, as they are occasionally seen. I love photographing the raptors. I think it is because of the excitement that is aroused whenever I see one. The Red-tailed is the predominant hawk around this area.

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Thank you Bob, the subject is beautiful which makes creating images of them very appealing! They are showing up here in numbers higher than I have seen the past two winters. I photographed more of them yesterday.

  4. Julie Brown November 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    This is a handsome raptor. I like the coloring on its head. I’m looking forward to seeing more!
    BTW, thanks for adding me to your blogroll list.

    • Mia McPherson November 15, 2011 at 8:40 am

      Thanks Julie, I took some more Roughie images yesterday, they sure are a gorgeous raptor!

  5. Dan Huber November 14, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Gorgeous shot and very nice post Mia. A neat hawk I hope to see sometime.


    • Mia McPherson November 14, 2011 at 7:09 am

      Thanks so much Dan, they are neat hawks, both to see and photograph. I hope you get to see one soon!

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