Rough-Legged Buzzard

Scientific name: Buteo lagopus

Did you know: The rough-legged buzzard has feathered feet, a unique adaptation for its Arctic habitat.

What Do Rough-Legged Buzzards Look Like? (How to Identify Them)

Rough-legged buzzards are striking birds of prey, distinguishable by their black-tipped white tails, paler overall appearance compared to common buzzards, and notably longer wings. 

They have a characteristic behaviour of ‘hanging’ in the air while hunting, often seen hovering more frequently than common buzzards. Look out for the heavily feathered legs, which are a key identifier and the source of their name. However, be cautious, as their appearance can be confused with the variable plumage of pale common buzzards.

Differences Between Male And Female Rough-Legged Buzzards

In rough-legged buzzards, males and females can be differentiated by subtle differences. Males generally exhibit a slightly smaller size and less heavy markings compared to females. Females are usually larger and often have more bands on their white tails, along with more prominent markings on their bellies. Both sexes share a common palette of brown, grey, black, and white feathers.

What Do Rough-Legged Buzzards Eat?

Primarily carnivorous, rough-legged buzzards have a diet focused on small mammals. They are adept at hunting rabbits, voles, and, in their breeding grounds, lemmings form a significant part of their diet. 

These birds of prey exhibit an opportunistic feeding behaviour, occasionally supplementing their diet with birds, fish, large insects, and small carrion.

Where Do Rough-Legged Buzzards Live? (Including Migration Info)

Rough-legged buzzards thrive in Arctic and Subarctic regions, migrating south during the winter months. In the UK, they are primarily winter visitors, with numbers ranging from 10 to 150, depending on the year. 

Preferred habitats include open areas like fields, marshes, and coastal regions, where they can efficiently hunt for their prey.

Bird Calls & Songs (The Unique Voices of Rough-Legged Buzzards)

The vocalisations of rough-legged buzzards include a range of calls used for various purposes. Their alarm call is a downward-slurring whistle, while courtship involves both sexes producing a whistling sound that changes to a hiss. 

Fledglings beg for food with distinct calls, and during copulation, females cluck and males whistle.

Fun Rough-Legged Buzzard Facts (Kid-Friendly)

  • Rough-legged buzzards have feathered legs, an adaptation for their cold Arctic habitat.
  • They are one of the few birds of prey known to hover in mid-air while hunting.
  • Females are typically larger and heavier than males.
  • These buzzards can see ultraviolet light, helping them spot prey more easily.
  • In winter, some rough-legged buzzards migrate to the UK from their Arctic breeding grounds.
  • They build their nests high up on cliffs or in trees.
  • Rough-legged buzzards can live up to 19 years in the wild.
  • They have a unique scientific name, Buteo lagopus, which means ‘hare-footed buzzard’.
  • These birds are known to change their diet depending on the availability of prey.
  • Rough-legged buzzards are skilled at stealing prey from other birds.

Rough-Legged Buzzard Images

image coming soon Submit Image
Male
image coming soon Submit Image
Female
image coming soon Submit Image
Hatchling
image coming soon Submit Image
Nestling
image coming soon Submit Image
Chick
image coming soon Submit Image
Fledgling
image coming soon Submit Image
Juvenile

Facts About The Rough-Legged Buzzard

Diet: Mammals, including rabbits and voles. On the breeding grounds, lemmings are a staple food.
Bird Family: Kites, hawks and eagles
Length: 50-60cm
Wingspan: 120-150cm
Weight: 600-1300g
Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus

The Rough-Legged Buzzard Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • October
  • November
  • December