Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rough-legged Hawk in the Snow

The sun broke through the clouds again this morning.   So I threw caution to the wind and took my Prius for a spin.

I didn't get far before I had to pull over onto the shoulder.  No, it wasn't a Prius challenge.  It was the very big black and white bird sitting atop the tree in my neighbor's yard.

Note the legs - feathered all the way to the toes

I grabbed my camera, rolled down the window and took a quick shot

When I opened the door to get out of my car, the bird took off.

I knew what it is.   Look at the distinctive black marks on its wrists...

...and the broad black band and white at the base of the tail.  Another distinguishing characteristic - that I didn't see - is hovering (like a kestrel) over a prey item (usually a rodent, but occasionally a bird).

It's a light morph Rough-legged Hawk, the second I've seen in the neighborhood since October.

These birds breed in the arctic and sub-arctic regions.  They migrate south, and over-winter in Canada and the US near airports and in agricultural areas where rodents are plentiful.  That's a good description of my neighborhood.  In addition to the corn and soybean fields, there's a very small private airport 2 miles up the road.

Rough-legs are known for hunting from perches in the winter - and my neighbor's tree provides a great view of surrounding cornfields.  They're often seen scavenging at roadkills.

                                                   Rough-legged Hawk Christmas Bird Count data

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