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Rough-legged Hawk

Posted on Feb 16, 2016

This Rough-legged Hawk put on a brief but thrilling show for me today, facing into the wind to help it hover while scanning the land below for any small mammal prey.

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The wind was particularly strong thanks to the major storm currently impacting the Northeast region. Whichever one of the hawk’s eyes that was being battered by the wind the most was often covered by its nictitating membrane. This third eyelid is almost like wearing a pair of sunglasses for the raptor in that it can still see while the eye is more protected than it would be otherwise. It was also keeping the eye moist with all of the air passing over it. I too put on my sunglasses on cloudy and windy days to allow for better vision and keep any sand, dirt, rain or snow out of my eyes.

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The bird did not have any success at catching prey while I was watching it, and it moved on to check other open habitats.

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Keep an eye out for more Rough-legged Hawks venturing down into the U.S. as the winter season wraps up with the irruptive species moving south while searching for more food during the leanest part of the year.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator