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Wendy with Pepper

Wendy with Pepper, a large female, shot by some idiot in Oregon
Photo by Steve Hall

    Rough-Legged Hawks
Buteo Lagopus
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitiridae
Genus: Buteo


A large Buteo of the high northern latitudes, the Rough-legged hawk inhabits the tundra, taiga and open coniferous forests of Northern Alaska, the far north of Canada, and northernmost Europe and Asia, migrating south in North America in September to winter in the States. For reasons unclear, migrating males tend to winter further south in the states than do females, and adults migrate a month before juveniles.

Rough-leggeds come in lighter and darker phases, are 1 to 2 feet long from beak to tail, and have about a 4 foot wing span. Rough Leggeds are among the raptors to display sexual dimorphism, most obvious in the lighter phases. Females have darker bellies and solid tail bands, while males have vertically barred bellies, and thinner tail bands.

The name “rough-legged” refers to a feature found also in Ferruginous hawks and Golden eagles, namely the feathers covering the legs right down to its relatively short toes, providing insulation and helping to minimize heat loss in a colder environment.

Rough–leggeds hunt voles, lemmings,  other small mammals, and occasionally small birds, employing aerial dives, and, like Ospreys,  hovering frequently while hunting. They will also eat carrion. It is believed that Rough Leggeds can see in ultraviolet, which assists the hawks in spotting concentrations of vole activity, through the reflection from vole feces and urine.

They nest mainly on cliffs, slopes or in trees, producing clutches of one-to-seven eggs, in nests of large sticks, which sometimes contain caribou bones, and are lined with soft grasses and sedges.In times of prey shortage, the clutch will be much smaller.

Pepper, a large female, was being rehabbed in Oregon, after being shot by some jerk. She was, judged non-releasable because of her wing. We understand subsistance hunting, but why shoot an animal you're not going to eat, particularly a raptor involved in rodent control? Pepper came to the Refuge in June 2009.


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Meghan with Pepper
Volunteer & Sub-permittee Meghan Jensen with Pepper

Megan and PepperMegan and Pepper
Meghan & Pepper with Whiteface & Esther behind, left, and Wilmington Range behind, right.
Megan with Pepper and Fire
Meghan with Pepper, while Fire, a Swainsons Hawk , looks on.
pepper, Rough Legged HawkAnti-matter raptor!
Pepper with Alex
It's Pepper, Rough Legged Statesman for Congress!, ....then an antimatter Pepper & Meghan, ....and telling Alex a joke?

Rewilding the Adirondacjs

Contact Information
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehabilitation Center

Steve & Wendy Hall
PO Box 555, 977 Springfield Road, Wilmington, NY 12997
Toll Free: 855-Wolf-Man (855-965-3626)
Cell Phones: 914-715-7620 or 914-772-5983
Office Phone: 518-946-2428
Fax: 518-536-9015
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