Rough-legged Buzzard

Rough-legged Buzzard, Buteo lagopus


English: Rough-legged Buzzard, Rough-legged Hawk (North America)
Scientific: Buteo lagopus
German: Rauhfußbussard
Spanish: Busardo calzado
French: Buse pattue

Taxonomy and Subspecies

Common Buzzard is probably a close relative. A mixed and successful pairs has been reported from Norway [GRIN 2009].
Both [Mebs & Schmidt 2006] and [GRIN 2009] mention 4 subspecies. In Europe only B. l. lagopus occurs.


Length: 50-60 cm
Wingspan: 120-150 cm
Weight: Males 600-1,380, Females 780-1,660 g

Maximum Age

Almost 19 years in the wild. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]


Prefers open habitat like tundra or above the tree line in mountains. During winter also in open habitats. In wintering areas, also found in agricultural areas.


Breeds in the Artic and Subarctic in northern Europa, Russia and North America. In Europe the species breeds in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. During winter also found further south like Great Britain or Central Europe.


Migratory species. Birds from Scandinavia spend the winter in Central and East Europe. They arrive there as early as September or October and stay until March or April [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Breeding and Reproduction

First breeding with two or three years. Display and courtship can already begin in the winter quarters [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Number of breeding pairs and breeding success depends on availability of rodents. In bad rodent years many pairs don’t breed at all. The average clutch sith is 3-5 eggs which are incubated for about 31 days. The young stay in the nest for 34-43 days [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

As with most raptors, the adults care for the fledged young for several weeks before they can find and hunt enough food on their own.

Food and hunting

Mostly hunts small mammals like lemmings and voles which can make up to between 80% and 90% of the total prey. The rest are small birds [Mebs and Schmidt 2006]. Also takes carrion, especially during the winter.
Hunts mostly from flight, often hovering (more often than the Common Buzzard).


European population between 37,500 and 79,000 [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].


[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] write that in Sweden, many ringed that where recovered died because of hunting. Illegal shooting might therefore be a problem in some areas. Collision with cars and in some cases electrocution can also kill Rough-legged Hawks.
If climate change will, in the long run, negatively affect the species, remains to be seen.


According to [Mebs & Schmidt 2006], the conservation of suitable habitat and sufficient prey is the most important thing.
Illegal hunting must be stopped and powerlines should be made safe to avoid electroction (this will also benefit many other raptor species).
No more roads should be built in Rough-legged Buzzard habitat to avoid collision and disturbance.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Least Concern (LC)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Lower risk


[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Rough-legged Hawk Buteo lagopus. Downloaded from on 5 Jul. 2009[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.


Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. PoyserMebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.


BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Rough-legged Buzzard

GRIN species account for the Rough-legged Buzzard