Cascades Raptor Center

Resident Raptor - Rough-legged Hawk

Tyee and Kenai

Rough-legged Hawk Tyee  (A male) was found in a school yard in Corvallis in January 1997, with muscle damage and punctures to the shoulder. Unable to fly well enough for hunting and his long migrations, he was placed with CRC for education in August 1997.  Adopt Tyee

Rough-legged Hawk Kenai  A female based on size and coloration - was found alongside a road in southern Washington in January 2000, with an open fracture of the left wrist - probably hit by a car. The exposed bones were badly fragmented and ultimately died, so the wing tip was amputated. She was placed with CRC in January 2003, after spending some time in an education program in Klamath Falls.  Adopt Kenai

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)

Courtesy of Barbara Gleason A large, long-winged, long-tailed hawk; females are larger than males. The Latin name means "rabbit-footed," as the legs are feathered completely down to the small yellow feet. The pattern and amount of dark is extremely variable in this species. In the common light morph (light-colored variety), this hawk is more boldly patterned compared to other buteos, with brown back and wings, but head, neck, underside and thighs white or buffy with streaks or spots of brown; females and immatures have a dark belly band, while the adult male has a darker "bib" across the breast, and paler belly. The tail is pale with dark bars, dark at the end. When viewed in flight, square black patches at the wrist, or bend, of the wing underside are a distinctive feature. Flight is active with slow, flexible wingbeats; soars in a medium dihedral (v-shaped attitude of wings), and hovers frequently.


Size - Length: 18 - 23" • Wing Span: 48 - 56" • Weight: 1.6 - 3.0 lb.

Rough-legged Hawk Status - State and federally protected.

Habitat - Open country; breeds on Arctic tundra and mixed tundra / boreal forest. Whole population moves south in winter, keeping to open farmland, marshes, other open areas; often migrates in large flocks, arriving in early to mid - autumn; are settled in winter territory across the U.S. from November to March. Often roosts communally in winter, usually in conifers.

Diet - Small to medium sized mammals. Hunts in open areas from a low perch or elevated spot; frequently hover hunts. May be found in same area and eat the same food as Red-tailed Hawks, but avoids direct contact and competition with that species by hunting from lower perches, keeping more to open areas, and using a less sedentary hunting style.

Call - Soft, plaintive courting whistle in breeding season; alarm call is a loud screech or squeal, or a drawn-out, descending, whistled kee-eeer.

Nesting - Very territorial in summer. Builds nests on elevated sites on open tundra, using a wide variety of locations, such as eroded riverbanks, rock outcrops, ledges - any place that provides some protection against predators. Ability of this species to use many different types of nest sites is important in their survival, since they must compete for available sites with resident Ravens and Gyrfalcons, as well as with Peregrine Falcons that arrive in northern breeding grounds at the same time.

Most Common Problems - For those seen at Cascades Raptor Center is collision with cars/trucks.

  ANCA Member

Cascades Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Federal ID No. 93-1038827) dedicated to wildlife rescue and public education to enhance appreciation, respect, and stewardship of the natural world.


CRC logo art by Jeanne Hammond-Elliott.  Drawings by Barbara Gleason & Karl Edwards.  Photographic sources noted as provided.