Photo by Sue Ernisse

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)

Fun Fact

Rough-legged hawks get their name from the feathers that extend all the way to their toes. The only other American raptors that have this are Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles and owls in general.


Named for it's completely feathered legs. Lago meaning "hair" and pous meaning "foot."

Conservation status

IUCN Least Concern


A large buteo with variable plumage but generally brown to grey-brown with a bi-color tail. Black marks at wrists with rest of wing light colored. Commonly light streaked chest and dark belly. Males, females and juveniles have slightly different plumage patterns.


18.5-20.5 in (47-52 cm)


52-54.3 in (132cm – 138 cm)


25.2 – 49.4 oz (715-1400 g)


A buteo of the North, breeding in northern Alaska, Canada and northern Eurasia. Migratory with distance traveled dependent on rodent availability. Most birds migrate in September-October. They winter in the continental US and Eurasia. (Range map below)


Found mostly in open country with low, rough vegetation. Breeds on lowland treeless tundra or higher altitude river valleys and sometimes wooded tundra. In winter, they will use open wetlands, steppes, prairies and coastal marshes.


Mainly small mammals and birds depending on availability. Occasionally fish, amphibians, insects, spiders and carrion. Can take prey up to the size of hares and ducks. Will frequently hover to catch prey.


Perches in open areas on posts, trees, rocks, or mounds. Solitary or in pairs and small groups when on migration and can communally roost in groups of over 100 birds. Typical buteo aerial displays: high circling, calls and soaring with males closing wings partially and falling steeply before rising quickly and repeating.


Season begins in mid-April-May and ends between August and September. A bulky piled nest made of small twigs is built with an average size of 60-90 cm across and 50-60 cm deep. Lined with
grass, moss, hair, and feathers and usually found on a cliff face. Clutch size is typically 3-5 eggs with an incubation period of 28-31 days. Fledging occurs at 35-45 days.

Photo by Ashleigh Scully

Photo by Ashleigh Scully

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InfoNatura: Animals and Ecosystems of Latin America [web application]. 2007. Version 5.0 . Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. Available: (Accessed: October 24, 2012 ).

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