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.

Rough-legged Hawks are winter wanders in my part of the country and I never know where I might find them. I’ll keep trying to photograph the Rough-legged Hawks that are still here before they head north.



  1. Mia McPherson February 22, 2013 at 10:19 am

    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. Seagullsteve February 18, 2013 at 4:30 pm

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

  3. Hummingbird Lover February 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

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

  4. Erin Duke February 18, 2013 at 6:20 am

    Amazing captures, Mia! So crisp and clean, not to mention a beautiful subject! 🙂

  5. Sally Wood February 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm

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

  6. M. Firpi February 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    I like that highly contrasted plumage pattern and colour.

  7. Nicole February 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

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

  8. Bob Bushell February 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Beautiful Hawk. Brilliant photography too.

  9. Prairie Birder February 17, 2013 at 11:53 am

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

  10. Scott (@NESASK) February 17, 2013 at 9:04 am

    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. Sherry in MT February 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

    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. Bonnie Peel February 17, 2013 at 8:33 am

    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. Wally February 17, 2013 at 8:28 am

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

  14. Beverly Everson February 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

    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. Rohrerbot February 17, 2013 at 7:20 am

    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. Kathleen February 17, 2013 at 6:52 am

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

  17. Eileen February 17, 2013 at 6:05 am

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

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