Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  A Wyoming County Nemesis Conquered

Published: January 15, 2019
Tags: General Observations, rough-legged hawk, wyoming county

I finally caught up with a Rough-legged Hawk today in Wyoming County.  It's been a lengthy chase of two years and I'm glad to say it's finally over!  And what a handsome bird to finally catch up to too!

Rough-legged Hawks come in two flavors - light and dark morphs.  The bird I saw today was an adult male light morph, a very striking bird.  I used to think the dark morphs were my favorite but after today's bird, I might change my mind on that...

Did you know Rough-legged Hawks are one of the few hawks you can identify their sex by their appearance?  Most other raptor species can only be differentiated by their size, the females being the larger of the two sexes.  Without going into too much detail, I determined this guy to be a male by the dark brown mottling on the underwings, where a female would have some buffy tones.  Also, the terminal band (end of tail) appears to have a second band where females only have one.  There are a few other characteristics but these are the main ones I saw well enough to risk assigning its sex as male. (A juvenile, by the way, would have a dusky tail band, not at all as clearly defined as this hawk's.)

Just a couple of other quick facts about Rough-legged Hawks: they only visit us in the winter months, coming from their arctic breeding grounds, this species has feathers all the way down their legs to help keep them warm (hence their name), they face into the wind and hover when they hunt, and they like to perch on the small branches at the top of a tree - which is where I found this guy perched today.

I've probably lost most of you by now - so just enjoy the few shots I got of this gorgeous but elusive guy!

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Rough-legged Hawk perched pretty close to the top of the tree.

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Rough-legged Hawk starting to look like he was going to leave.

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He flew out across the road to hunt another field.

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He actually flew pretty much right in front of my car and I was able to get off a couple of shots through the open window.

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