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Rough-legged Hawk

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 1997

Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) in flight at Point Reyes, California. Identifying marks as seen from below are dark wrist patches and legs feathered to the toes. This is a hawk of open country that often hovers while hunting; normally seen singly or in pairs.

How to Distinguish Between Raptor Species

Buteos, the soaring hawks, have blocky bodies, broad wings and short tails. Their characteristic hunting strategy involves soaring high over open country, then dropping to the ground to seize prey. See Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson's Hawk.

Accipiters, the woodland hawks, have short, rounded wings and long tails. These adaptations allow them to maneuver quickly among trees after birds and small mammals. Their tails usually have light and dark bars. See Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk.

Falcons have long, slim wings which taper to pointed tips. In flight the wings angle back at the wrists and wing beats are rapid. Falcon bodies are sleek; they have very round heads and long, narrow tails. Most falcons have noticeable patterns on their faces, such as the two cheek "sideburns" of the kestrel. See Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon.

Eagles are very large and can be distinguished from other raptors by their size and proportionately large, broad wings. They soar, often at great heights, and have slow, deliberate wing beats.

Other Raptors: See Osprey, Northern Harrier


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