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Order Birds of prey/Accipiterformes, Family Hawks/Accipitridae

Rough-legged Buzzard/Buteo lagopus - Adult

L 49-59 cm, WS 123-140 cm. Breeds on fells, in mountain valleys or upland tundra, sometimes in lowland forests with minor hills or crags. In Britain & Ireland, rare passage and winter visitor. Food mainly small mammals. Nests on cliff-ledge or steep slope, at times quite accessible, or in tree.
IDENTIFICATION: Typical buzzard, with broad wings and medium-length tail, but compared with Common Buzzard larger and longer-winged. Glides on wings clearly bent at carpal joints (bend slightly more marked than on Common), inner wing raised and primaries flat. Active flight with slower wingbeats than Common Buzzard. Hovers frequently, much more commonly than Common Buzzard. Best recognized by white inner tail above and below (pale-morph Common can have whitish inner tail, too, but not so clearly contrasting against dark upperwing/rump and distal tail, more diffusely set off, and coinciding with white upperwing-coverts and rump not found on Rough-legged Buzzard). Underside whitish with bold pattern, always incl. blackish carpal patches and dark belly. Plumage variation largely due to differences between sexes and ages. (Very rarely a dark morph has been recorded within region, blackish on whole body and wing-coverts, with white tail- and flight-feathers heavily barred black; very difficult to distinguish from dark Long-legged Buzzard, and except for size from dark ‘Steppe Buzzard’ B. buteo vulpinus.) - Adult male: Ample ‘hand’, evenly broad wings and rather short tail; trailing edge often somewhat uneven through wear and moult. 2-4 black cross-bars inside broad black end-band above on outer tail, 1-3 of these visible from below; flight-feathers narrowly but distinctly cross-barred; typically has head/breast darker than belly, latter profusely broken up by light barring; ‘trousers’ cross-barred; underwingcoverts dark, often giving Common Buzzard-like impression, not seen on adult female; upperparts usually all dark with small, diffuse paler patch at base of outermost primaries, and leading edge of ‘arm’ a little paler. - Adult female: Differs from adult male in having only one narrow black bar (very rarely two bars) inside broad black end-band on tail, visible above and below; dark belly patch usually prominent and almost invariably darker than head/breast; underwing-coverts variable but never so dark as on darkest adult male. - Juvenile: Narrower ‘hand’ and slightly bulging secondaries; all flightfeathers uniformly fresh/worn. Ground colour yellowish-white, breast and underwing-coverts typically are loosely streaked; belly solidly black without light barring; tail has diffusely defined dark grey broad end-band, often rather pale from below, on male frequently with hint of several cross-bars through it; flight-feathers only diffusely barred, end-band diffuse; upperwing typically with large pale primary patches. - Subadult male: Often intermediate between adult male and adult female, making sexing in the field more difficult except for typical extremes. Underwing-coverts and head/breast not so dark as on typical adult male, and tail with fewer bands.
VOICE: Vocal in breeding season. Main call a wailing miaow, recalling Common Buzzard, but drop in pitch perhaps more pronounced, and tone often sounds more whining and piercing. Also used as alarm, at times vibrant (esp. when taking off from perch).

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