Rough-legged Hawk On Lichen-covered Rocks

I love the orange lichens that often grow on rocks and very old buildings. Throw in a beautiful raptor and I’m in heaven.


1/3200. f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this Rough-legged Hawk five days ago on some rocks at the base of Utah’s Promontory Mountains. The light was marginal but reflected light from the snow on the ground helped to make the colors pop a little better.

I enjoy the lichen-covered rocks almost as much as I do the bird. I first became intrigued by these orange lichens as a 7-8 year old when I noticed them growing on some of the old granaries on our Montana farm (the same buildings I’ve often photographed Great Horned Owls on). When I learned that lichens, even those found on bare rocks, were actually living, growing things I became even more interested and that interest persisted. Lichens may have actually been the initial spark that ignited my interest in biology and the natural world as a child.

So yes, these orange lichens in particular will always be special for me.



1/3200. f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is my favorite of the two photos because we see even more of the rocks and lichens and I like the fluffed-up pose of the hawk.

Rough-legged Hawks have been the subjects of four of my posts in the last few weeks so perhaps some viewers are tiring of them. But I can only post what I shoot and it won’t be too long before these birds head north (way north!) for the breeding season and we won’t see them again for many months.

I believe we should enjoy them while we can.




35 comments to Rough-legged Hawk On Lichen-covered Rocks

  • Pam Skaar

    Hi Laura,

    Because they teach you more stuff every day, your continuing learning really enriches what the rest of us can learn during the photo discussions. Thanks.

  • Such beauty Ron. The bird, the place and the photos.

  • Dick Harlow

    Sorry to be late, busy, but nice day before the next two storms come in! Marauding Cooper’s this AM. Yesterday, Red-tail and Cooper’s on two branches facing each other and the Red-tail decided to fly toward the Cooper;s. (attacking?) Pileated fly over and Bluebirds still working our Winterberry. Very busy day.
    Very nice shots of what looks to me like a satisfied Roughy! Beautiful bird!!

  • Laura Culley

    I’m with you Ron…lichens always make me stop and gawk at the sheer beauty and magic. Add in a raptor and I’m in heaven! I’m constantly amazed at the beauty this Earth has to offer if we only stop and look, listen and breathe it all in.

    • Yup, it’s a great combination Laura!

    • Dick Harlow


      Yesterday, a Red-tail was perched on a branch facing a Cooper’s Hawk about 10-15 feet est. away from each other. The Cooper’s was facing the Red-tail. I was watching with Bins cause it was some distance away. They stayed that way for maybe 5 min or longer not sure. Then the Red-tail suddenly pushed off his perch directly at the Cooper’s. The Cooper’s took off and did an immediate 90-180 turn around some trees. Neither the two were seen again until the Cooper’s came through the yard this AM.
      Question: Was the Red-Tail bluffing? Or would he/she have done damage if it could?

      • Laura Culley

        Dick, my guess is that there was some bluffing going on followed by a show of force, HOWEVER, knowing how redtails are, if the Cooper’s happened to be napping (not paying attention) at that second, it could have been a meal. You just never know about redtails and the first thing Mariah taught me was to NEVER say that (whatever that is) can’t happen. Always and never don’t work with redtails. They CAN do a whole lot of things folks don’t think they can do. They didn’t get to be about the most abundant North American raptor by being picky eaters 😉

        • Laura Culley

          Oh and don’t forget, they’re getting into that territorial nesting frame of mind now 😉

        • Dick Harlow

          Thanks Laura. “They didn’t get to be about the most abundant North American raptor by being picky eaters 😉” Sort of what I expected! But, this was an adult Cooper’s and he/she also did what I expected. Plus he/she was back the next morning. This Red-tail has been hunting our field/meadow for 3 months, and I just figured it was a show of force to get the competitor out of the area. Just wanted input from the expert!!

          • Laura Culley

            Oh, I’m NOT an expert by any means. They teach me new stuff every day–stuff I never expected. But I watch closely and listen. That’s about the only thing I’ve done right in this endeavor 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    I don’t get tired of seeing beautiful birds, perhaps especially ones like this guy that I’m not likely to see in person. And I love lichens in all the colors I’ve seen. The best ones, including the best orange ones I’ve ever seen were on rocks in the ocean around Ushuaia, Argentina. The colors are brilliant and not soon forgotten. Lichens have interesting growth patterns that remind me of the interesting feather patterns on birds.

  • Marty K

    I really “lichen” this floofy Roughie! (Sorry. Haven’t had much sleep in the last couple of days, so I’m a little punchy.)

    We, as a society (including Congress), could learn a huge lesson from the symbiotic mutualism displayed on this rock.

    I have some vivid memories of my dad pointing out mosses and lichens to me on some of our hikes when I was 3 or 4. I especially loved it after a rain when the lichens and mosses tended to be softer and velvety to the touch. Plus, the peaty-yet-clean odor of a damp evergreen forest is one of my favorite smells.

  • Dick Ashford

    Hi Ron,
    Very, very nice! I’ve always felt that “beautiful Rough-legged Hawk” is a redundant term, and use a roughie’s image as my Facebook profile. Two weeks ago, I was teaching a class and,
    as I summarized the species’ field marks, one of my students said, “and don’t forget the ‘Cleopatra eyes’ “. The term stuck, and will soon be in the local bird geek vernacular…
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Beautiful shot of soft feathered bird, hard rock and leathery orange lichens…I have always loved rocks(pebbles to boulders), moss, fens and our green and blue-grey lichens, as well as the wild things whose habitat they are part of…any time you show rock or weathered wood, I consider them a bonus…

  • Diane Bricmont

    Wonderful way to start my day, Ron. Never apologize for too many Roughies!

  • Christine

    I will never tire of your Rough-legged Hawk photos Ron! They are special, and seeing them through your eyes is fun and educational 😉 Sadly, we’ve not see any this winter, so your posts are all the more meaningful to me…Thank you!

    • Christine, it’s funny how sporadic they are from year to year. Recently we had several years where I saw very few of them but this winter there seems to be a pretty good number of them around.

  • Den DiMarco

    Ron, thank you for my morning dose of nature’s beauty complete with your educational narrative and photographic observations. I’ve never met you but already you feel like a friend. I appreciate your efforts.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful shots – must have been a bit cold with the hawk all fluffed up. The lichens are also beautiful and something I also enjoy. 🙂 The lighting and rock all came together well as a supporting cast. 🙂

    • It was cold enough, Judy. There was boatloads of snow on the ground and the bird stayed fluffed up for some time.

      All that snow is melting now (the low at my house last night was 59° and the flooding has already begun.

      • Judy Gusick

        Yep – 43 here this morning. Chinook came in hard and fast yesterday fogging car windows! No danger of flooding in my immediate area – up N could be a problem.

      • Patty Chadwick

        I understand that big,salty pudfdle you live near, can really use all the snowmelt it can get…hopefully this helps….

  • Charlotte Norton

    Beautiful Ron!