As most would describe the size of this hawk, it is similar in size to the Red-Tailed Hawk (about 19-24 inches long, 48-56 inch wingspan). Its main prey is the field mouse and the lemming, and is considered one of the more "beneficial" birds of prey. It has two color phases is sometimes mistaken for having more; it is not an immediate color change, and is often viewed in the intermediate stages. Notes- Color Phases
The light phase rough-leg has an off-white head, neck, underside and thigh, marked with brown. The wings, back, and lower third of the tail are dark brown also; as with the broad band over the belly that is visible in all light phases. Dark phase birds may be black all over (hence the nickname "Black-Hawk") but the tail usually has a white base. Immature light phase is mainly light brown instead of off-white, and dark phase immatures appear mottled.
Nests are built on cliff ledges or in the tops of trees. They are made of sticks and twigs and lined with grasses. 2-6 eggs are laid, off white and blotched with brown. They are incubated for 28 days by both parents. The hatchlings will fly in about another month.
The Rough-Legged Hawk prefers grasslands and fields; as well as tundra, coastland, and in the winter, marshland. The Rough-Legged Hawk breeds throughout Alaska, Arctic Canada (including Baffin Island and others), northern Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland. Winters throughout the northern US south to the southern states but not the border or the Gulf.
The Rough-Legged Hawk is not listed as endangered or threatened in the United States.