The Rough-legged Hawk gets its name from its feathered legs, a distinguishing characteristic that differentiates it from other similar hawks. They are about the size of a Red-tailed Hawk, and have dark black circles in their mid-wing and relatively small feet compared to other hawks of a similar size.
They commonly “hover-hunt,” flapping their wings but remaining in the same spot in the air several hundred feet in the air while scanning below for prey.
They are northern hawks, breeding in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Asia where they hunt lemmings, and are only seen in Delta during the winter. They seek out areas with high densities of prey, such as Grassland Set-asides in Delta, and mainly live off of Townsend’s voles here during the winter.
They use Hedgerows as perches, and in a 2001 BCIT student study, they were found to prefer habitat with trees.
When migrating they do not depend on thermal air currents like many other hawks; they are strong flyers and use their own strength to make the migration of hundreds of kilometres.