[TN-Bird] Rough-legged Hawk in Cumberland Co., Feb. 13 apparently a heavily marked light morph female

  • From: "LeGrand Family" <elegrand@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tn-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Feb 2010 15:36:07 -0600

Jeff Wilson noted that my description of the Rough-legged Hawk on Saturday in 
Cumberland County didn't fit the dark morph description. (See his recent note 
at the bottom). For anyone else struggling with the variation in Rough-legged 
Hawks, I thought I'd include the correspondence. I hope it's not too confusing 
to follow.

I thought I'd checked the books carefully, but I agree that both Sibley and 
Wheeler & Clark say and show the upper side of the tail is dark on adult dark 
phase female Rough-legs. I had struggled over another dark-looking Rough-leg at 
the same place last year, though then I had a good look at it perched and saw 
that the upper 1/3 of the body (including head) was paler than the lower breast 
and belly. I very much appreciated Jeff's response then (his response to my 
sighting last year is in boldface below), and his follow-up this year. This 
year, I didn't get a good look at it perched (only a distant scope look with 
gray sky in the background). I suspect that this was the same individual as 
last year, and that it was a rather dark-appearing light morph female as Jeff 
reassured me then. From above, Saturday's bird looked like Sibley's light adult 
female (all dark with a very distinct white band), but from below it certainly 
looked dark, except for the silvery flight feathers. The white on the tail from 
below wasn't prominent. 

Ed LeGrand
Crossville, Cumberland Co., TN

Attached is Jeff's reply to me last year (including part of my description of 
last year's bird):

A dark, heavily marked, intermediate light morph female Rough-legged could have 
all of the features you mention. I had one a couple of years ago on the Great 
River Road.

Good Birding !!!

Jeff R. Wilson / TLBA
6300 Memphis-Arlington Road
Bartlett, TN 38135
What is this feathered thing that lifts my heart to the heavens.

In a message dated 3/3/2009 10:05:01 P.M. Central Standard Time, 
elegrand@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
  Sibley's (large guide) dark phase juvenile, though it was a bit lighter on 
  the chest. In flight it looked most like Sibley's dark adult below, but it 
  had much white on the upper tail with a solid black terminal band (similar 
  to his light adult female but with more white on the tail--Sibley shows only 
  dark upper tails on his dark phase illustrations). 

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: OLCOOT1@xxxxxxx 
  To: elegrand@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Sunday, February 14, 2010 10:38 PM
  Subject: Re: [TN-Bird] Dark phase Rough-legged Hawk in Cumberland Co., Feb. 13

  In a message dated 2/14/2010 12:24:51 P.M. Central Standard Time, 
elegrand@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
    bird was dark brownish-black above and below, but seen from above it had a 
    white base of the tail with a fairly wide solid black band at the end of 
    tail (distinguishing it from Harlan's and typical of a female). 
    Dark morph Rough-legged Hawks (male or female) supposedly would not show a 
white base to upper tail according to the latest raptor info that I have. Do 
you have mention of such an upper tail pattern? All the dark morphs (few) I've 
seen have had dark or dark gray and black cross banded upper tail 
surfaces............How well defined was the black band? What % of the tail was 

    Thanks for any input............

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  • » [TN-Bird] Rough-legged Hawk in Cumberland Co., Feb. 13 apparently a heavily marked light morph female - LeGrand Family