December 9th, 2012
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
He was no Red-Tailed Hawk! He was a Rough-Legged Hawk
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.
Rough-Legged Hawk legs are feathered to the toes, an adaptation to their cold-weather lifestyle.