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A Roughie and a Kestrel

Published February 06, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel

I did a little driving around the southerntier the other day, mostly looking for raptors. I tried some of the same areas I had found them in last winter and, although I didn't find any Bald Eagles or Snowy Owls, I DID come upon a very nice adult female Rough-legged Hawk.

The hawk was sitting in a tree along the edge of a large field - and at first, I thought she might be another Red-tailed Hawk. However, when I gave her a closer look through my binoculars, I quickly saw I was looking at a beautiful light-phased Rough-legged.  This was only my third sighting for this winter season, so I was very happy to come upon her.

I stayed on the side of the road for awhile and watched her hunt over the field a time or two.  After one such hunt, she flew much closer to me and perched in a nearby tree, I happily grabbed some photos, using my car as a blind. She never seemed to notice me at all!  As a matter of fact, she left to make a quick hunt for a rodent in the small woods next to where I was parked too - and then amazingly, returned to the same tree. I spent a couple of hours with her, just watching and studying her from within my car - and she never suspected a thing.  What a fabulous observation opportunity...

With my field guide open, I noted the small, feathered feet of the huntress and the relatively small bill. The smaller extremities help conserve energy in the arctic regions these birds call home for most of the year.  She never called while I watched her, but then I read that they don't usually vocalize in the winter. Her dark wrist patches were only visible when she flew but her solid, defined tail band could be seen both flying and while perched.  She had dark eyes, indicating she was an adult, which the solid tail band confirmed. Adult males usually have more bands in the tails and juveniles have a less defined band that blends into the rest of the tail - along with light eyes.

By the time I left the hawk, it was getting towards sunset and, as I drove through Eden, I saw a male American Kestrel up on a wire.  Of course, I stopped to get a few photos of the beautiful falcon and for once, the setting sun was in a favorable position..  This species is, perhaps, my very favorite; I'm simply a sucker for them!  The small falcon obliged me for a few minutes of photos -  after which I left him still up on the wire with wishes for happy hunting and I drove on towards home...
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Rough-legged Hawk - my first view as it sat on the wooded edge of a field
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Wasn't it nice she perched very close to me?!
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel