This was a pleasant surprise yesterday. I spotted this handsome hawk hovering over a field, looking for a meal below. As I trained my camera on it, I was pleased to see exactly what it was. It was pretty patient, hunting and largely ignoring me before deciding a meal wasn’t to be had in that spot and moving on.
Looking back, this is the earliest in the season I have ever seen one of these with all previous first sightings having happened around mid-December.
Rough-legged hawks spend their summers in the Arctic where they mate and then spend winters in southern Canada and the lower 48. One of their most notable features is that their legs are feathered all the way down to the toes, one of only three American raptors like that. The other two being the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle.