Rough legged hawk

Was about to pull in my driveway and saw a large bird fly down the street and land in a tree. Drove down and took a bunch of photos with my cell. Got lucky with this one!

Nice bird but are you sure it isn’t an immature red tail?

Both red tails and rough leggeds can be highly variable in plumage but the former immatures typically have tails with multiple bands just like your photo. Light morph rough leggeds typically have a single pronounced dark terminal tail band. And of course, rough leggeds are a much rarer species, an arctic breeder although they certainly might be starting to migrate south about now.

Whatever it is, it was a good spot and a very nice photo.

Great photo with a cell.

Could be an immature red tail! Looked at my bird ID on my phone and it looked more like a Rough legged more than anything else

It could be either Andy and I certainly make no claims of being an expert.

The odds of it being a rough legged are very much against it though. I just checked the Cape May NJ Hawk Watch site - who keep the most accurate and best records around. They list the migration period for rough leggeds at Oct-Nov, and the yearly average numbers they see is 4 birds, out of the 36,000 hawks they count on average every year since the mid 70’s.

If you have an interest in hawks, Cape May is the best place in the USA, and one of the best 2 or 3 places on the planet, to see migrating fall birds.


Late to the party here, but I’ll add my two cents anyway. This is indeed an immature red tail with a fairly dark belly band. As a migration counter at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, I’m very familiar with both species. Rough legs are the rarest of our expected migrants and don’t usually show up until late November. Our count, unlike Cape May, runs till December 15. Impressive cell photo, though!