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Rough-Legged Hawk

My husband's eagle eyes are to thank for this one. We were driving along Terry Fox on the way to lunch when he spotted a hawk perched atop a streetlight. I thought it likely a Red-Tailed Hawk (the usual common roadside raptor that often perches on manmade things), but what I glimpsed of his underside looked tantalizingly non-red-tailed. After we got home, I grabbed my binos and camera and went back out, managing to find a pull-off area so I could get out and approach him.

He was no Red-Tailed Hawk! He was a Rough-Legged Hawk, a far-northern bird that only visits Ottawa in winter, and a thrilling find for me--I'd never seen and identified one before without the help of more experienced birders. He doubly clinched his identity when he took flight and started hovering over the field edge: first, because of the now-obvious dark "wrist patches", second, because he hovered for at least fifteen seconds straight, something no other buteo in our area would do. It's a unique behavior that they use to search for field mice.

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Rough-Legged Hawk legs are feathered to the toes, an adaptation to their cold-weather lifestyle.

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December 10th, 2012 at 8:25 am
Glad you managed to find him again to get the ID!

December 21st, 2012 at 9:48 pm
Lovely shots Suzanne! I still need this species for my winter list. Perhaps I can go look for him Sunday. I also need to head out to Hurdman to look for the Barrow's Goldeneye and some gulls but the weather and my schedule have not been conducive to a lunch time visit.

December 24th, 2012 at 2:04 am
Thanks Gillian! Good luck with roughies, there seem to be a number of them in town this winter (had a second sighting recently, near Carling and March.) I also want to get out and do some gull-hunting soon. I could have sworn I saw a LBBG on the Rideau a couple weeks ago near Hurdman, but his legs looked pink not yellow and I didn't have a camera, so I wasn't able to list him.

Speaking of gulls, wouldn't it be nice if that beautiful ultra-rare Ivory Gull from Arnprior showed up in Ottawa!