Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) are found globally in the northern latitudes. North American rough-legged hawks winter throughout much of Southern Canada and the United States, occasionally venturing into parts of Mexico. Summers are spent in the Arctic Tundra.
Leonard and I enjoy watching these winter visitors as they perch on poles, fences or treetops searching for their next meal of voles, mice and shrews. Rough-legged hawks will also face into the wind and hover while hunting. A hawk observed on the ground in our area during the winter is almost always a rough-legged.
Mature rough-legged hawks begin their northern, vernal migration in March. Juveniles move north in April and May. Soon these distinctively marked buteos will be gone for the summer. However, the departure of rough-legged hawks means that Swainson’s hawks (Buteo swainsoni) will soon return from their winter homes in Argentina for their breeding season in Western United States.
This rough-legged hawk was photographed at the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuge (Siskiyou County CA).