Snow Birds – Rough-legged Hawks

Rough-legged Hawk in flightRough-legged Hawk in flight – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 257mm, natural light, not baited

When I lived in Florida we called the tourists that came to the state for the winter “Snow Birds” because it seemed that they flocked down to the state to escape the cold and snow of the north. Those “Snow Birds” caused huge traffic messes, long lines at the grocery stores and frustration for the people who lived in Florida year round. Can’t say I ever met anyone living in Florida that was sad to see them go north in the spring. 😉

When I lived in Virginia the “Snow Birds” were actual birds that showed up in my yard and feeders just before the first snow of the winter, mostly they were Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. Those “Snow Birds” were a delight to see and listen to and I was always sorry when they left.

Here in Utah I see flocks of people in RVs and hauling camping trailers from Idaho, Montana and Canada migrating south for the winter to Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. I guess they could also be called “Snow Birds”.

But for me the “Snow Birds” I have grown to love here in Utah are Rough-legged Hawks who only visit in the winter and spend the rest of their lives breeding in high subarctic and Arctic regions.

Rough-legged Hawk on a hoar frost covered treeRough-legged Hawk on a hoar frost covered tree – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 321mm, natural light, not baited

Rough-legged Hawks don’t cause frustration for the residents of Utah or long lines at the grocery stores but on occasion they can cause traffic jams when a group of bird photographers spot one at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. Well, the traffic jam might only be two or three vehicles which isn’t really a problem.

I think of Rough-legged Hawks as my Utah “Snow Birds” and like my Juncos and White-throated Sparrows from Virginia I am always sad to see go north in the spring.



  1. Stu January 20, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Color Co-ordinated.. Great shot and setting

  2. Kathie January 18, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Mia, I remember seeing them there and out in Syracuse, Utah at the Bernard Jensen Nature Park! Love the hawk on the tree covered in hoar frost! (P.S. My spellchecker recognizes the word, “hoary” but not “hoar!” Go figure!

  3. Elephant's Child January 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Simply gorgeous. Thank you.

  4. Greg Britten January 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

    I was born in Virginia, where did you live? Love the Rough-lep pics.

  5. Utahbooklover January 17, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Wonderful images Mia. The inflight resembles a hawk I saw near my home last week. I asked Jerry Liguori what he thought it could be on his blog. Check out his reply and photos:

  6. Montanagirl January 17, 2014 at 6:44 am

    I like them both – but that first one is exceptional.

  7. Bob Bushell January 17, 2014 at 4:37 am

    The first is a beauty, nicely caught in your photo.

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