Like a Super-sized American Kestrel
If you are watching as your travel around Northeast Iowa this winter, you may be treated to a rough-legged hawk observation. Should you be lucky, such a situation might happen at close range, like I enjoyed today.
Rough-legged hawks demonstrate a recognizable trait when they hover in one place, much like the smaller American kestrel.
When I researched the rough-legged hawk, I found the following interesting information at the Cornell Labratory of Ornithology website “All About Birds” (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rough-legged_Hawk/lifehistory) :
- The name “Rough-legged” Hawk refers to the feathered legs. The Rough-legged Hawk, the Ferruginous Hawk, and the Golden Eagle are the only American raptors to have legs feathered all the way to the toes. Nonbreeding adults eat about a quarter-pound of food daily, or a tenth of their body mass—that’s about 5 small mammals.
- Rough-legged Hawks have been shown to hunt more in areas experimentally treated with vole urine than in control areas. They may be able to see this waste (as American Kestrels can), which is visible in ultraviolet light, in order to find patches of abundant prey.
- The Rough-legged Hawk spends the summer capturing lemmings on the arctic tundra, tending a cliffside nest under a sun that never sets. Winter is the time to see this large, open-country hawk in southern Canada and the U.S., where it may be perched on a pole or hovering over a marsh or pasture on the hunt for small rodents. Found globally across northern latitudes, this species occurs in both light and dark forms.
Rough-legged Hawk Hunting: