California Raptor Center

Rough-legged Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus
(Buteo is Latin for hawk, lagopus is from the Greek lagos ‘hare’ and pous ‘foot’).

Size: Length: 18-23in Wingspan: 48-56in       

Weight: Female: 1278g (average) (2.8lb) Male: 1027g (average) (2.3lb)

Lifespan: Their expected lifespan is 6 to 12 years; they may live up to 20 years or more in captivity.

ID: There are two morphs of this species: light and dark. Both have dark carpal patches, in both youth and maturity.Light morphs have white undersides and dark wingtips throughout their lives. They also have a thick white strip across their tail. Adults have a darker overside than the juveniles. Adult males have a lighter back than adult females.Dark morphs have light undersides on their wings and tails throughout their lives. Adults have a completely dark overside, while juveniles have some white on their heads and upper flight feathers.

Hunting: They soar or sit and wait at perches  and also hover to find prey.

Prey: Rough-legged Hawks eat lemmings, partridge, small to medium mammals, and carrion.

Breeding: Rough-legged Hawks build stick nests on the ground, or in rocky outcroppings in the tundra and grasslands. Clutches are 2 to 7 eggs in size, which are incubated for 28 to 31 days. Chicks fledge after 5 to 6 weeks.

Range: They are complete migrators, spending the winter in the warmer climates such as California and breeding in the northern latitudes.

Status: They are currently protected by the migratory bird treaty act.