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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hovering over Bodega Head

Just a few quick pictures of the Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) that's been seen on Bodega Head for the past two weeks.  I caught up with it briefly today along the Overlook Trail (near the top of Owl Canyon and the Horseshoe Cove Overlook).

Rough-legged Hawks nest in arctic and subarctic Alaska and Canada, then winter in southern Canada and the northern U.S.  They're relatively rare winter visitors to Sonoma County.  The status of Rough-legged Hawks in this area is described as "irregular", i.e., the number of individuals that show up in any given year varies a lot — from none, to a few, to many.  [This is the first one I've seen on Bodega Head.]

This individual is a "light morph" note the very pale coloration on the head and chest (and the contrasting dark band across the belly).

Rough-legged Hawks are known for having a large amount of white at the base of the tail:

And this individual also had a striking amount of white at the base of the primaries (outermost flight feathers), creating large pale patches when viewed from above.  Here are two more examples of the wing and tail patterns:

Rough-legged Hawks often hover while hunting for small mammals (e.g., mice or voles).  I was struck by a view of this Rough-legged Hawk hovering over Bodega Head, with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop:

This has been a banner year for small mammals on Bodega Head.  It's been a great time for viewing raptors!


Dan Gurney said...

I think I saw one of these at Estero Americano yesterday. In any event, I saw a number of small raptors that I could not identify. Thanks for this post. I'm learning.....

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Dan,

Sorry for the delayed response. The Estero Americano would be a good place to see a Rough-legged Hawk. I'd be happy to look at a picture if you want send one my way.

:) Jackie

L. Broderick. WestCountyHawkWatch said...

Indeed we've had the Rough-legged Hawk in the Estero Americano this year, at least a dozen sightings. (pretty sure its been the same juvenile bird) Great Blog Post Jackie! thanks