Rough-legged Hawk

Roughed-legged Hawk

This winter visitor is a large, soaring hawk named for the feathers that extend down its legs, an adaptation to its northern habitat. Rough-legged Hawks are variable in plumage, with light and dark color phases and variations in between. Dark phases account for only ten percent of western Rough-legged Hawks. Adults are generally mottled light-and-dark underneath, with dark patches at the wrists. Seen from below, the tails of both phases appear light with a dark terminal band. Seen from above, both phases appear mostly dark, but the light phase shows a light tail with a dark terminal band, and the tail of the dark phase appears dark all over. The adult male can have several dark bands at the tip of its tail as compared to the female, which only has one band. The light phase has a distinctive light-colored head, in contrast to its dark upperside. The Rough-legged Hawk’s bill and feet are relatively small.