There are several birds for whom we ARE south when it comes to winter migration destinations. Rough-legged Hawks (Buteo lagopus) are one of them. They breed in the Arctic and winter pretty much throughout the US except for the far southeast.
Don’t kick yourself if you were checking your field guide for Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk or even Turkey Vulture: the Cornell All-About-Birds site listed below notes them under “similar species”. It doesn’t make life easy that this species could appear in several different color morphs. Check the “Photo at TrekNature” link below for a different color pattern.)
It might have been easier perhaps if we could have gotten a good closeup look at its legs. The name “rough-legged” comes from the fact that it has feathers all the way down to the toes. Since there are only three American hawks with that distinction (this, the Ferruginous Hawk, and the Golden Eagle), it would have narrowed the field.
Thanks to Dave Cooney, who snapped this picture at Audubon (southwestern New York State) on Sunday and emailed it to me. Thanks to those of you who participated in the bird quiz. I’m declaring the race to ID a tie – won by “BW” and “Clare”. (BWs answer was held for approval until this morning, so Clare may have thought she was first!) Congratulations.