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Rough-legged Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus

Species Ambassador:

Mr. Fance E Pants

Fance was hit by a car in Hudsonville and brought to Blandford in 2002.  He suffered permanent nerve damage to his right wing. Since he cannot fly, he would not be able to catch prey or protect himself from predators in the wild.

Status of Rough-Legged Hawks in Michigan

Rough-Legged Hawks are generally only seen in Michigan when there isn't enough food for them in their Arctic homeland.  A shortage of food in the Arctic forces these hawks to head south in search of food.


They make a cat-like kee-eer that drops on the end.


They prefer open coniferous forest, tundra, barren country and cliffs or trees for nesting.  In the winter, they seek out grasslands and open cultivated areas.


Rough-legged Hawks eat mainly small rodents, such as lemmings, and occasionally amphibians, birds, and large insects.  They dive at their prey from a branch or from the air while in mid-flight.

The Role of Rough-legged Hawks in Our Ecosystem

Just as most owl species help keep small mammal populations in check by hunting at night, hawks help to keep small mammal populations in check by hunting during the day.

Threats to Rough-legged Hawks

Currently, there are no threats to populations of this species.

Interesting Facts

-The name “Rough-legged Hawk” comes from the fact that they have feathers all the way down   to their feet, which helps keep their legs warm in the cold Arctic climate.

-Along with branches and sticks, Rough-legged Hawks will also use bones to build their nests.

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