Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The rough-legged hawk breeds north of the United States from Canada to Alaska. It migrates south into the United States from northern nesting grounds during the winter and will arrive in North Dakota in October, where it can be seen near marshy areas and open prairie.
When hunting, it frequently hovers over one area and searches for prey. It preys largely on small mammals, especially the lemming in the Arctic, and in the winter range field mice and other rodents. Due to its specific selection of rodents for food, it is generally considered a beneficial species to humans.
The rough-legged hawk can be identified by looking for yellow legs that are feathered to the toes and a dark belly band that contrasts sharply with the lighter colored head. In flight, the underside of the wings have conspicuous black patches at the wrist and a broad black band at the base of the tail.
The rough-legged hawk is generally a tame species and usually allows humans to approach within close range.