More Rough-legged Hawks

Rough-legged Hawk in flightRough-legged Hawk in flight –  Nikon D300, f5.6, 1/2500, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Since my last post about Rough-legged Hawks I have been able to find and photograph more of these handsome raptors. The Rough-legged Hawk above made a close fly by and I was able to get several images of it as it did so. At first I thought it was a gull when it was at a distance but I soon realized it was a Rough-legged and paced my shots so that my buffer would not fill up.

Close fly by from a Rough-legged Hawk Close fly by from a Rough-legged Hawk – Nikon D300, f5.6, 1/2500, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The wingspan on Rough-legged Hawks is larger than I realized at 53 inches. The Rough-legged Hawks I have seen recently have beautiful colors, from dark chocolate browns, creamy butterscotch to pale creams. I have read that these hawks are silent except for when they are on their breeding grounds, I can say I’ve never heard one make a sound here in Utah.

Rough-legged Hawks hover when they are hunting prey, it is really a wonderful sight to see. They also seem to “plummet” when they are descending on their prey by partially closing the wings, it is quite different from a dive or a stoop.

Rough-legged Hawk Lift Off!Rough-legged Hawk Lift Off! –  Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 325mm, natural light, not baited

I didn’t have the best of light when I photographed the Rough-legged Hawk above and the bird’s tail feathers and rump were damp which caused those to be a touch ratty looking, but I sure liked the wing position in this shot. I hope to get another lift off series where a Roughie is on a natural or more appealing perch.

Perched Rough-legged HawkPerched Rough-legged Hawk – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 640, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

A few days later I was able to photographed this Rough-legged Hawk while it sat on a fence post. My Exposure compensation was up a bit too high because I’d been photographing this hawk in the sky before it landed but I was able to bring the exposure down in post processing so that the whites weren’t blown out.

After the hawk left this perch it dropped down on the ground not far from the post and I took some would-have-been wonderful frame filling shots of it on the ground except for the fence that was between the bird and I. Being a bird photographer can be frustrating that way.

Rough-legged Hawk in flight with the Stansbury Mountains in the background Rough-legged Hawk in flight with the Stansbury Mountains in the background  –  Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 228mm, natural light, not baited

I photographed this Rough-legged Hawk two days ago while in Tooele County looking for raptors to photograph, it had landed in a field close by. I zoomed back so that I could get a lift off shot without clipping the wings, perhaps I zoomed back just a little too much, but I’m very fond of images that show birds in their natural habitat and this one does that quite well.

I have been very pleased to add so many images of Rough-legged Hawks to my portfolio in just the past week and hopefully these hawks will stick around until late February of next year so there will be many more opportunities.



  1. Julio August 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Hi, Mia. I just came across your sight on one of the first times that I seriously went and go looking for a bird I’ve seen and can’t identify. Somehow, I spent 2 hours trying to find this bird that flew right in front of my car, I almost hit it! It couldn’t have been farther than 5 ft in front of the nose of the car and it was below my eye level so I had a spectacular split second view of it… but only after 2 hours, and writing a letter to friend who I know is a devout birder, I went back for a second look and thought it might have been a Rough-Legged Hawk… (I had thought after seeing a strange photo of a strange Northern Goshawk that it might have been one, but I live in Massachusetts and I felt I was stretching my memory). I was so pleased that after my first inquisition to find pictures of Rough-Legged Hawks, that I found your website. I am almost certain it was one, and I was also really very pleased to see your photographs and find your website. I am glad to have found it. Though, if you might allow me to say this, I’d disagree with your comment below the photo of the Roughie taking off; the chance to see the hawk with it’s tail and legs wet for me is wonderful, and that detail is captured there… for me, it is my favorite one because the detail it shows demonstrates honestly and thoroughly rare visions of the hawk… I thought also, because I read the description of your self and your work on your site, that I wanted to point it out because you said yourself that seeing the birds in their natural habitat and state is more special to you than an aesthetically pleasing (in a kitchy way, I interpreted), which I support all the way! And, for me, a viewer, that photo of the bird was an exceptional chance to see a special bird in a natural state… So, I appreciate it, thank you :)!

    • Mia McPherson August 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Julio, thanks for visiting my site, I am very glad you found it too and that you think you have ID’d your hawk. I hope you will visit my blog again.

      I appreciate that your favorite image is the Roughie with the wet legs and tail. It is all a part of nature, perfect or not! 🙂

  2. Eddie May 2, 2012 at 9:49 am

    dear mia
    if yo could help me find facts online
    about the rough-legged hawks i would
    be so great ful of your work.

  3. Joe Houseman February 26, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I’m trying to identify a hawk which killed one of my chickens a couple of days ago. It did not carry the chicken off but was eating it just outside the coop. It flew off as I approached, remained low and alighted in a Ponderosa Pine maybe 75 yards away, within the foliage where I could not get a good look at it. I moved in for a closer look and it again flew, remained low, swooped down over a gully and I lost sight of it as it came up the far slop. So I really only saw it in flight, from the rear and only slightly above eye level. It was a very large bird, much larger than a Raven and from that rear end view I got the impression of a blue/grey color. I estimated the wing span of about four feet. This was at an elevation of 7,500 feet in Colorad near the Royal Gorge in mixed Ponderosa, Juniper, and Pinyon with some open grassland near by. The Rough Legged Hawk seems closet to what I observed but I really only saw a departing view, never saw back, breast side or head.

    • Mia McPherson February 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      Hi Joe,

      From your description of the raptor that killed your chicken I would think it to be a Northern Goshawk because of the color, the size you noted, the “prey” of the raptor and the type of habitat you described. Northern Goshawks are found in and at the edges of mixed or coniferous forests. You can google for images of them, let me know!

      Thanks for commenting and visiting my blog.

      • Joe Houseman February 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

        Thank you Mia, yes that does seem to fit. I wish I could have gotten a look at it in the tree. After seeing it fly off and alight in a tree I slipped back to the garage to get my binoculars and lock up the dogs so they wouldn’t spook it but on returning I lost track of which tree it was in. I slipped in within maybe 35-40 yards when it took off from a tree I hadn’t even looked at. LOL It was only after my unsuccessful stalk that I returned to the chicken pen and found the dead and half eaten chicken.#@$**$$# Hawk!! I also raise pigeons and quite a few of them have been taken by hawks but those hawks I’ve seen in persuit of pigeons are much smaller. If they catch the pigeons on the ground it’s just a few feathers and by by pigeon. The two ariel persuits I’ve witnessed ended with pigeons escaping by out speeding and out manuevering the hawks who soon gave up the chase.

        • Mia McPherson February 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

          Glad I could help Joe! Northern Goshawks can be difficult to relocate once they perch under the canopy of a tree. The smaller hawks that take off with your pigeons might be either Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawks, they like the same kind of habitat that the Goshawks do and their prey is “small” birds. I’ve found nothing but feathers after a Cooper’s Hawk killed doves where I lived in FL.

  4. Rohn November 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Wonderful Roughlegged Hawk photos Mia. I love the poses you captured. Great sharpness and exposure, showing true colors. I hope our roughies will return to our valley soon.

    • Mia McPherson November 25, 2011 at 5:54 am

      Thank you Rohn, the Roughies have been super fun to photograph around here lately. I hope your Roughies come back to the valley soon.

  5. Bob Zeller November 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Mia, I must apologize. I have gotten behind in viewing your post. I was thinking that I had subscribed to your blog, but I guess I haven’t. I decided to check up to see what you had and I found your last amazing posts. Your hawk photos just blow me away. Hawks in flight is one of favorite subjects. I love your post about the turtles and again, excellent photos. Be patient with me, as I will try to stay up with you and read all of your posts.

    • Mia McPherson November 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Bob, no worries. I’ve gotten quite a few more hawk images over the past few days, seems like Rough-legged have arrived this winter. I sure hope they stick around!

  6. Scott Simmons November 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Lovely images! These are great!

  7. Robert November 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I like the mountain bokeh in that last shot. Good stuff as always Mia!

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