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53-63cm (20Â¾-24Â¾ in).
Wings long and broad. Light brown to dappled white upperparts; paler, streaked head, brown-spotted white breast, and dark belly band. The legs are fully feathered. Wings are mostly pale below but in typical birds have a dark square at the base of the hand and are dark-edged (sharply demarcated in adults, more diffuse in juveniles). Tail is white with one broad dark subterminal band and 0-5 additional narrow bands close the the subterminal band.
A dark morph occurs, mainly in the North American subspecies, where body and wing-coverts are completely dark but flight feathers and tail are quite typical, almost silvery white in this form. In all forms, a broad white uppertail is diagnostic (a narrow version of this can be seen in Common Buzzard) and usually, a pale base of primaries on the upperside of the wing.
Can be told from pale Common Buzzards and Red-tailed Hawk in flight by the whitish tail with the single dark bar at the end, the contrasting dark belly patch, and at close range, by the feathered ("rough") legs.
Is more inclined to hover than Common Buzzard, though that will also often do so. In Asia, pale phase Upland Buzzard can be similar, but lacks the dark tail band and belly patch.
Breeds Arctic and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, Alaska, and Canada; most if not all populations are migratory, wintering south of the breeding areas.
In Europe breed in Scandinavia through northern Russia, wintering mainly south of the Baltic Sea to the Balkans and east of that. Irregular winter visitor to the east coast of England, more rarey in eastern Scotland.
In North America breeds in the northern half of Canada, wintering mainly in the USA.
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Hayman, P. , Hume, R. (2002) Birdwatchers Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe, Mitchell Beazley ISBN 1-85732-804-3
Fitter, R.S.R. & Richardson, R.A. (1966) Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds, HarperCollins ISBN 1-85152-026-0
Peterson, RT, G Mountfort and PAD Hollom. 1993. Collins Field Guide â€“ Birds of Britain and Europe, 5th Revised edition. London: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0002199001
Bechard, M. J., T. R. Swem, J. Orta, P. F. D. Boesman, E.F.J. Garcia, and J. S. Marks (2020). Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rolhaw.01
Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 26 Mar. 2020
Orta, J., Boesman, P., Garcia, E.F.J. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53144 on 26 March 2020).
Wheeler, B.K. (2003) Raptors of Western North America. Princeton Univ. Press ISBN 0-69111-599-0