Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Rough-legged Hawk, Buteo lagopus, photographed on Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Terry Sohl, 4 January 2009 [larger view].

Photo taken with a Canon 50D, 400 5.6L.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 John Callender
    January 30, 2009

    I’m going to call this a juvenile light-phase Rough-legged Hawk. The beak and the visible plumage match really nicely with the illustration in Sibley, including the “pale head” (though this bird is a little less-pale than the illustration) and “dark belly”.

  2. #2 Michael
    January 30, 2009

    Yes, I agree with Rough-legged Hawk/Buzzard or (Buteo lagopus – this is the only buteo with a holarctic distribution.

  3. #3 Michelle
    January 30, 2009

    Also the “mascara” eye stripe is diagnostic. Much smaller beak than a Red-Tailed and the light head distinguish it from that bird. Can’t see the legs, unfortunately, but if you could there would be feathers all the way to the feet instead of bare tarsus as on the Red-Tailed. Yay – not a passerine!!! 🙂

  4. #4 Rick
    January 30, 2009

    No question Rough-legged Hawk–for the reasons John listed above. We see these guys in Western MN in the late winter and early spring.

  5. #5 Forest
    February 8, 2009

    Where could I get a bird identified by description only? I saw an unfamiliar one and am curious.

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