Nature Journal
with Photos

          
Rough-legged Hawk Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
 
General Information
- Large buteo
- Long, broad, rounded wings
- Hooked beak
- Broad tail
- Yellow legs and cere
- Sometimes hovers in flight
- Wings held in slight dihedral

Dark morph adult
- Very dark plumage
- Flight feathers barred and paler than wing linings
- Dark trailing edge to flight feathers
- Dark wrist
- Broad, dark, subterminal band on tail
- Female has white base to tail; male has dark tail
  with thin paler bars

Dark morph immature
- Plumage similar to dark morph adult but may be
  browner
- Subterminal tail band less distinct than on adult
- Whitish area on upper surface of primaries
- Tail pale with indistinct darker bars

Light morph adult
- Wide, dark, subterminal tail band
- Upperparts dark brown with some mottling
- Dark wrist contrasting with mottled wing linings and
  paler flight feathers
- Females have darker bellies than males; males have
  darker breasts

Light morph immature
- Plumage similar to adult light morph female
- Belly black
- White area on upper surface of primaries
- Dark subterminal tail band on light tail with dark bars

Similar species
The Rough-legged Hawk is quite variable with light and dark morphs, male, female, and immature plumages. The broad, dark, subterminal tail band and black wrist patches are diagnostic.

Northern Harrier has thinner wings and lacks white in the tail. Dark morph Ferruginous Hawk has white comma in the wrist. Harlan's Hawk has more mottling on the underparts and has a whiter upper surface of the tail.
 
 
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