My pick for bird of the month for December is our wintering Buteo the Rough-legged Hawk. Winter is raptor time in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, though the Swainson's Hawks have gone south for the winter the Red-tails, Harriers, Kestrels, Short-eared Owls, Great Horned Owls and even Barn Owls our permanent residents are more visible than any other time of year. In addition the Rough-legged Hawks, Merlins and Bald Eagles come from the North Country to enjoy our balmy winters.
Rough-legged hawks are abundant at Farmington Bay from November through March. I think they have the most beautiful markings of any raptor under their wings as they soar overhead.
The Rough-legged Hawk breeds in Arctic tundra and taiga regions around the northern hemisphere.
- Large Buteo.
- Wings long and broad.
- Flight feathers pale, with dark trailing edge to wings.
- Black wrists marks.
- Tail broad, white at base and broad dark tip.
- Commonly pale, streaked chest and broad dark belly.
- May be all dark, still with pale wing feathers and white at base of tail.
The name "Rough-legged" Hawk refers to it's feathered legs. The Rough-legged Hawk, the Ferruginous Hawk, and the Golden Eagle are the only American raptors to have legs feathered all the way to the toes.