Rough-legged Hawk,  Buteo lagopus

Number of accepted Rough-legged Hawk records for Louisiana = 9 as of October 2017

Accepted Records

One immature female (1933-03) on 12 March 1933, Jefferson: Grand Isle; Glenn Hopkins (LSUMZ 4803, mount). This is the first state record.

Photo by Donna L. Dittmann

One (1982-003)seen from U.S. Hwy. 11, Orleans: New Orleans, on 30 January 1982 (DM, NN, MM, FR, DP).

One immature (1988-16; formerly 89-16) on 22 Nov. 1988, St. Tammany: Hwy. 434, 1.3 km SW Lacombe; Al Smalley, GS, CK (Purrington 1988, p. 117).

One (1988-09; formerly 89-9) on 26 Dec. 1988 (NOCBC) Orleans: N Blind Lagoon, near Big Oak Island; Paul McKenzie, WS (Cardiff and Dittmann 1989, p. 599, 985). Muth (1989, p. 325) incorrectly reported the date of this observation as 31 Dec. 1988.

One (1990-06; formerly 91-13) on 16 Dec. 1990, Cameron: W. end of Sabine National Wildlife Refuge; Glenn Ousset and Gwen B. Smalley (AB 45(4):851).

One adult (92-27) light morph on 2 Jan 1992, Tensas: Tensas River NWR [CBC]; Robert B. Hamilton; AB 46(4): 1034, LOS News 147: 4.

One light morph immature (1999-008) from 9 January-14 March 1999,Natchitoches: W of I-49 just past the Powhatan exit;Joseph P. Kleiman, Rosemary Seidler, and Charles Lyon (ph only). See NAB 53:2, p. 174.


One (2011-104) on 19 December 2011, Natchitoches: off US Hwy. 71, approximately 4.25 mi. SE of Clarence; Justin Bosler (video clip) and Devin Bosler.
Video by Justin Bosler

One light morph immature (2012-043) from 28 November 2012-17 March 2013, Lafourche: Fourchon Beach from Belle Pass to 1 mi. E; Dave Patton (ph) and Erik I. Johnson (ph). A Rough-legged Hawk was reported from this general area approximately two weeks earlier by Don Norman.

Unaccepted Records

One (1982-065) on 13 March 1982, Orleans: along Hwy. 11, N of Hwy. 90. Note: there is an accepted record (see Second Report) on 30 January 1982. This record was submitted long after the observation and most Members agreed that the elapsed time, the observer’s inexperience (at the time), and inappropriate habitat were problematic.

One (90-104) from 8-29 Jan. 1989, Madison: Mississippi River levee 6 mi. SW of Delta (AB 44(2):281). The observer initially identified the bird as a "Harlan's” Red-tailed Hawk, but was unsure of the identification because the bird seemed to possess characteristics of both "Harlan's” and Rough-legged hawks. To help resolve the identification, the observer submitted detailed notes of his observation to the LBRC, including drawings of the hawk. After review, all Members believed the description better fit an aberrantly-plumaged Red- tailed or a "Harlan's” Red-tailed Hawk than a Rough-legged Hawk.

One of undetermined age and sex (94-123) on 17 Dec 1994, Cameron: Second Bayou Road [N of Holly Beach]. All Members agreed that the observation was too brief and that crucial identification characters (features of head, underwing, underparts, and legs) were not observed. The observer who submitted the record was not absolutely convinced that the identification was correct.

One immature (1992-40) on 26 Mar 1992, Cameron: approximately 3 mi. SW of Cameron Ferry landing. Although the description is suggestive of this species, including feathered tarsi, a majority of members agreed that there was simply not enough detail to support identification or eliminate similar species and hybrids. During review, members were aware that the apparent second state specimen of Rough-legged Hawk had recently been re-identified as a hybrid Swainson's X Rough-legged hawk (Clark and Witt 2006).

Two dark morphs (1994-004) on 3 January 1994, Tensas: Tensas River NWR. The description was not detailed enough to eliminate Red-tailed Hawk from consideration.

One light morph (1994-007) on 21 January 1994, Rapides: on Cheneyville-Echo Rd. A brief observation, during which the observer was struck by dark wrist marks and dark belly, but there was not enough time to study other characters. The observed field marks, while intriguing, were not enough to convince a majority of Members.

One light morph immature (1994-011) on 13 February 1994, Cameron: Rutherford Beach Rd., about 1 mi. N of the beach. Although the description was fairly good, feathered tarsi were not noted and some Members were uncomfortable with the lack of hard evidence. Also, it was not possible to eliminate a hybrid Swainson’s X Roughlegged (of which there is a Louisiana specimen).

One dark morph immature (1999-112) on 18 Dec 1999, Jefferson Davis: landfill N of Welsh. This record received a decision vote on the second circulation. Three members voted to accept and believed that the description was adequate, including mention of feathered tarsi. Members voting against acceptance believed that some parts of the descriptions were too vague, and also cited the paucity of well-documented records of this species, not to mention a recent specimen of hybrid Rough-legged X Swainson’s hawk. Dissenting members emphasized the need for more exhaustive documentation (especially photographs) to support records of this very rare raptor.

An apparent Rough-legged Hawk specimen (LSUMZ 159786, not reviewed by the LBRC) was later re-identified as a Rough-legged X Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) hybrid based on wing and tail characters; the re-identification was confirmed genetically.

One immature (2015-052) on 19 October 2015, Natchitoches: from I-49 at vicinity of mile 150. All Members believed that the circumstances of the observation (brief, naked-eye of flying bird from moving vehicle) and details were not sufficient for acceptance of such a rare species.