Rough-legged Hawks are rare in most of Alaska; they breed on the North Slope along the bluffs along the north-flowing rivers. But they move through eastern Alaska in the spring to get there.
The big agricultural fields have a lot of small rodents, which gives the hawks a chance to fuel up before heading further north. This bird is snacking on a Red Squirrel.
The hawk takes its name from its heavily feathered legs; most hawks have bare, unfeathered legs. Presumably, it’s an adaptation to the bird’s seasonal arctic habitat. The Rough-legged Hawk is polymorphic, meaning it comes in a wide variety of plumages. Alaska sees mostly but not exclusively light morphs like this one.
In flight, viewed from the underside, the white “windows” in the wings and the dark “wrists” are pretty reliable field marks.
Arriving early in spring migration, this species is one of WC’s favorites because it means spring is finally coming.
Camera geek stuff:
Photo 1 – f5.7, 1/800, ISO100
Photo 2 – f7.1, 1/1000, ISO100, -0.67ev
For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.