Arrival to WBS: 2011
Sex: Female
Reason for Residence: unreleaseable due to injury

In August 2011, the World Bird Sanctuary received a call from a wildlife rehab organization in Wisconsin asking if we would be willing to take some of their permanent resident raptors and some who were almost ready to be released. Because of a series of violent storms and tornadoes that ripped through their area they were being inundated with injured and orphaned birds of prey and needed the resident birds’ housing space to accommodate the many birds that needed treatment. Two volunteers from WBS drove to Wisconsin to pick up sixteen birds. Bella was one of these. She was unreleasable due to an eye injury, and had been used as an education bird in Wisconsin.

The WBS staff and volunteers were very excited to receive this gorgeous raptor since we did not have this species amongst our staff of education birds. We promptly named her Bella, which means “beautiful” in Italian. It seemed to fit her, since this is the first word everyone uses to describe her. Bella has been a welcome addition to our roster of education birds. She is very calm and laid back, and has adjusted easily to life at World Bird Sanctuary.


There is little information on Rough-legged Hawk population trends, but populations appear to be stable. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population at about 500,000 individuals with 43{b72fa993cab2ff905a1f39ebf084228b79c40acc45be2f64cc4166a48c73e45e} spending at least part of the year in Canada, and 44{b72fa993cab2ff905a1f39ebf084228b79c40acc45be2f64cc4166a48c73e45e} wintering in the United States.

Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus
Description: medium-large bird of prey. Larger than a crow, but smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk. They are boldly patterned, dark-brown hawks with tails that are dark at the tip and pale at the base. Like many hawks they occur in light and dark morphs. Light morphs have pale underwings with dark patches at the bend of the wing.
Sex: Females have pale heads and dark belly patches; on males the pattern is similar but more mottled.
Age: up to 19 years in the wild
Length: 18.5″-20.5″
Wingspan: 52″-54.3″
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz.

Habitat: Rough-legged Hawks breed in open country of the arctic, both in North America and Eurasia. They nest on cliffs and outcroppings in low-lying boreal forest, treeless tundra, uplands, and alpine regions, both inland and coastal. During years of abundant prey their breeding range extends south into forested taiga. In tree-covered areas they hunt over open bogs and other clearings. They winter across southern Canada and most of the United States – west, central, and northeast – in open country, including prairies, shrubsteppes, semideserts, fields, marshes, bogs, and dunes.
Range: North and South America, West Indies, Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile

Behavior: Rough-legged Hawks are active during the day, especially at dawn and dusk. They perch alone on fence posts and telephone poles, fly close to the ground with graceful flaps and glides, or hover facing into the wind while searching for prey. They defend winter territories and may spend the night roosting alone, but may also roost communally in stands of conifers or cottonwoods. Rough-legged Hawks are monogamous for at least the duration of the breeding season, and pairs have been reported staying together on wintering grounds. Nests are typically located on cliffs, bluffs or in trees. Clutch sizes are variable with food availability, but three to five eggs are usually laid.

Diet: These hawks hunt over open land, feeding primarily on small mammals.

Vocalization: When nesting adults are alarmed they give a loud, catlike mew that lasts about 1 second, repeated every 15–30 seconds. They call while flying or perched. Courting birds give a whistle that tapers off into a hiss.

Fun Facts!
– The male chooses the cliffside nest site, usually completely exposed rather than protected by overhangs. The female spends 3–4 weeks building the nest from materials collected mostly by the male.

– The name “Rough-legged” Hawk refers to the feathered legs.

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