Fun Rough Legged Hawk Facts For Kids

Divya Raghav
Jan 31, 2024 By Divya Raghav
Originally Published on Aug 18, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Rough Legged hawk Fact File
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

These rough-legged hawks are raptors native to North America. These North American birds spend the summers catching lemmings on the polar tundra and caring for their cliffside nests beneath a never-ending sun. These curious birds perch on utility poles and fence posts. Their breeding grounds can be found in Arctic regions, and they prey on small mammals like ground squirrels and rodents. Pale-colored and dark morph hawks are different color patterns observed in these birds. These birds have a pale-colored tail with a dark terminal band. As the breeding grounds of the rough-legged hawks are in the arctic regions (extending over Europe and Asia), the best bet to spot one is in North America during the winter.

If you enjoyed these facts about the rough-legged hawks, you will also enjoy articles on other raptors like red-shouldered hawk facts and Cooper's hawk facts.

Rough Legged hawk Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a rough-legged hawk?

The rough-legged hawks are an American raptor species that belongs to the genus Buteo.

What class of animal does a rough-legged hawk belong to?

The rough-legged hawk, Buteo lagopus, is a medium-sized raptor with a pale and dark coat and belonging to the Aves class.

How many rough-legged hawks are there in the world?

Rough-legged hawks are thought to number between 100,000-1 million birds in the wild.

Where does a rough-legged hawk live?

Where they live can depend on the season and their migration. On outcroppings in low-lying trees, treeless tundra, uplands, and alpine environments, both inland and coastal, rough-legged hawks may be found. Prairies, shrubsteppes, trees, semideserts, grasslands, marshes, bogs, and dunes are some of the places they spend their winter.

What is a rough-legged hawk habitat?

The range map of these birds includes regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Rough-legged hawks are primarily found in the U.S. and southern Canada. These birds are found in the Arctic and subarctic regions of these nations. Trees, utility poles, fence posts, and hay piles are also potential perch locations. The wintering ground of South Canada and Northern parts of the States are where the migration is observed. The astonishing flight abilities of this light-dark brown raptor assist in migration to the withering ground and other habitats suitable for it to survive and perch.

Who do rough-legged hawks live with?

Rough-legged hawks live alone and not in groups. The legged hawk, Buteo lagopus, are monogamous and mate for life, forming a family structure.

How long does a rough-legged hawk live?

In the wild, rough-legged hawks can live to be 19 years old but only if they survive to adulthood.

How do they reproduce?

The rough-legged hawks reach sexual maturity at around two years of age. The age for sexual maturity and flight is around the same for males and females. The breeding season starts around may but can be highly variable. Monogamous mating is observed throughout this North American species much like their counterparts, the red-tailed hawks. Nests are constructed by the adult females, shortly after arriving at breeding grounds and take three-four weeks to finish. Twigs, sedges, and old feathers are utilized to construct the structure. rough-legged hawks could nest in association with peregrine falcons. The adult female lay down eggs in the range of two-six. The female protects the eggs and the nest when the males are out on a hunt.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the rough-legged hawks is of Least Concern according to the IUCN.

Rough Legged Hawk Fun Facts

What do rough-legged hawks look like?

Rough-legged hawks are huge hawks with broad wings and a pale and dark morph that are long and thin when compared to other Buteo hawks.

Rough-legged hawk birds are large raptors with broad wings that can be observed in both light and dark morphs. The tail of these broad feathered birds is lighter in color with a dark terminal band. The light morph rough-legged hawks have light and pale-colored underwing with several dark patches observed on the wing. The belly of the light morph species is white in color. The light morph species have negligible dark spots on their body. The dark morphs, on the other hand, have brown bodies and dark-brown underwing coverts. They have dark brown bellies that form a contrasting color pattern with the dark rufous breast. Light and dark morph species showcase a broad range of plumage patterns and have several noticeable differences.

How cute are they?

Both the light and dark patches of this species are considered very cute and elegant by wildlife enthusiasts.

How do they communicate?

Adult rough-legged hawks produce a 'kee-eeee-arrr' sounding call. We may deduce from the genus' characteristics that juvenile rough-legged hawks produce low 'peep' sounds. Body language and postures are also used to communicate, much like the way in which the red-tailed hawk communicates.

How big is a rough-legged hawk?

The rough-legged hawk can grow up to be as big as 18.5-20.5 in (47-52 cm). This is about 8-10 times larger than the smallest bird, the bee hummingbird.

How fast can a rough-legged hawk fly?

The rough-legged hawk, like other hawks, can fly very fast and reach speeds of between 22-28 mph (35.4-45 kph). When diving, their close relatives, the red-tailed hawks, can reach speeds of up to 120 mph (200 kph) Their flight is sustained longer than many other bird species.

How much does a rough-legged hawk weigh?

Rough-legged hawks typically weigh somewhere between 1.5-3 lb (715-1400 g). This makes them a fairly large raptor, like its closest species, red-tailed hawks.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Tiercels is the nomenclature assigned to both the adult males and the adult females of this species.

What would you call a baby rough-legged hawk?

A baby rough-legged hawk is called a chick.

What do they eat?

This species is carnivorous, with small mammals accounting for the majority of its prey (food). This species' main prey items are lemmings and voles — however, the food changes depending on seasonal availability. Small animals, such as mice and shrews, are the most common prey in the winter. The abilities to hunt for these black-brown raptors from Northern America are elite. The male is usually a better hunter and goes on a hunt for the female. Migration and habitats determine their hunting spots to a large extent.

Are they dangerous?

Hawks aren't usually aggressive toward humans. However, these birds are big and strong, and if they get aggressive (mainly due to parental instincts), they can injure you.

Would they make a good pet?

It depends on the individual whether the rough-legged hawk will be a good pet or not. If you are a fan of owning species like the owls, you would want this as your pet. To own a hawk, you may need a license and a particular certification depending on where you reside.

Did you know...

'Rough-legged', as the name suggests, refers to the feathery legs of this hawk species. The only American hawks with feathered legs all the way to the toes are this hawk, the ferruginous hawk, and the golden eagle. The ferruginous hawk is one of the strongest hawks in terms of catching prey.

In this sexually dimorphic species, the females are larger than the males.

What is the most common hawk in North America?

The red-tailed hawk bird (Buteo jamaicensis) is the most common hawk in North America, breeding over much of the continent.

What does a rough-legged hawk sound like?

The adults emit a shrill, shrieking 'kee-eeee-arr' when we observe them. Courting birds make a whistling sound that fades into a squeal. When nesting adults get concerned, they produce a noisy, catlike sound which is repeated every 15–30 seconds. When they're flying or perched, they'll make a call.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our barn swallow facts and snipe facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable rough legged hawk coloring pages.

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Written by Divya Raghav

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

Divya Raghav picture

Divya RaghavBachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

With a diverse range of experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. Born and raised in Bangalore, she completed her Bachelor's in Commerce from Christ University and is now pursuing an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. Along with her professional pursuits, Divya has a passion for baking, dancing, and writing content. She is also an avid animal lover who dedicates her time to volunteering for animal welfare causes.

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