Rough-legged Hawk

Buteo lagopus




Kites, Eagles and Hawks (Accipitridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White with brown streaks or blotches.

Number of Eggs:

2 - 3

Incubation Days:


Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

In river valleys, precipices, and slopes in raised places.

Nest Material:

Sticks and twigs.





Rough-legged Hawk: Large hawk with brown upperparts, paler streaked head, brown-spotted white breast and dark breast band; plumage can vary from dark to rather pale. Legs are fully feathered. Wings are mostly pale below and dark-edged. Upper half of tail is white, lower half is finely banded. Uncommon dark phase is brown-black overall. Female has more contrasting plumage than the male. Females and juveniles are paler, olive-brown with dark belly bands and single thick terminal tail bands.

Range and Habitat

Rough-legged Hawk: Breeds in tundra and taiga habitats of North America and Eurasia. Occurring in North America to migrate to the central United States for the winter, while Eurasian individuals migrate to southern Europe and Asia. During these winter months, from November to March, preferred habitats include marshes, plains, prairies and agricultural regions where rodent prey is most abundant.

Breeding and Nesting

Rough-legged Hawk: Lays two to three white eggs with brown streaks or blotches in a nest made of sticks, lined with moss, and built on a cliff. Eggs are incubated for 31 days mostly by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Rough-legged Hawk: Generally these hawks are opportunistic predators, focusing on the most available prey. They prefer small mammals such as voles and lemmings but will take a variety of small mammals including mice, shrews, rabbits, ground squirrels and gophers, as well as birds including ptarmigan, waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds, when they become available.


Rough-legged Hawk: Usually silent, but makes mewing squeals near nest; also makes a thin, downward-slurred whistle.

Similar Species

Rough-legged Hawk: Northern Harrier has thinner wings, a gray body, and lacks white on the tail.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X