Rough-legged Hawk With Jackrabbit Prey

Even though this may not be a “pretty” shot it’s photos like this that stir my soul because all of its elements are natural and the prey gives us a glimpse of the rawness of nature.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400 mm, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this juvenile Rough-legged Hawk on a jackrabbit near the Golden Spike National Historic Site in a relatively remote area of Box Elder County last February. I’ve posted a couple of shots of this bird previously but this one (and this pose) are new to my blog.

I especially appreciate images like this because there’s nothing in it that isn’t natural including bird, prey, sagebrush, snow and blood. Seeing this predator/prey relationship in such a natural setting adds a primal touch for me. How many times has a scene similar to this one played out in past millennia when no humans were around to witness it? That thought gives me pause.

And for a few moments at least it allows me to escape the rapidly increasing ugliness of much of today’s world.


PS – Apologies to subscribers. Last night (for the second time in my blogging career) while I was working on this post I mistakenly hit the “publish” button instead of the “save draft” button so the post published for a few seconds before I could intervene. That meant that the email with the link to the post went out to subscribers prematurely and if you tried that link it didn’t work.

Hate it when I do stupid stuff!


41 comments to Rough-legged Hawk With Jackrabbit Prey

  • Laura Culley

    Ron, yes I know I’m WAY late on this one, but are you SURE that’s a jackrabbit? It looks way more like a cottontail to me, and given the size of a rough-legged versus the size of a jack, I’m about 97.832% sure that it’s not a jackrabbit. That said, I would NEVER begrudge a raptor an epic kill! They can do anything they THINK they can do! Mariah’s biggest catch was a nine-pound jack at JFK Airport. She weighs 2-1/4 pounds. Jack, the HH COULD catch a jack, but he’s not sure of that idea, so he hasn’t. He only weighs 610 grams, roughly a pound and a half.
    And yes, I’m STILL catching up from my weekend away from the computer. And yes, to me, this is a gorgeous shot. We all need to be reminded where our food comes from, how little we have to do with it while wild critters have to put their lives on the line to eat.
    My fingers wander all over the place, both with and without my permission 🙂

    • Laura, No, I’m not sure it was a jack. I remember thinking it was at the time but then I was concentrating on getting the photos, not what the prey was.

      • Laura Culley

        Ron, while I know better than to say a Rough-Legged hawk couldn’t do that (they can and will if they believe they can), the comparative sizes of jacks and cottontails indicates to me a cottontail. However, it could also be a young jack. But the ears aren’t long enough to MY eye. That said, I’m not seeing many cottontails when it counts (out with Jack in the field). DARGH! Just joking there, well, except for the DARGH part!

    • Laura Culley

      Either way, you got the stink eye 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    Fantastic shot Ron, absolutely love it!!
    As you can tell I’m back in the game. It is a hell of a lot easier when you can grab someone who knows what they are doing to take me through the paces! Many thanks to my daughter and Mia!!

    • A huge welcome back, Dick!!! We’ve missed you around here. Please let me know what the problem was so I can recognize it if it ever happens to anyone else.

      It didn’t seem the same without you in the “neighborhood”…

      • Dick Harlow

        Thank you Ron, those are kind words. Your up kinda late, didn’t expect to hear from you till tomorrow.

        It was a corrupted cookie. My daughter led me to where the cookies are stored and I eliminated the cookie for your blog. Then I restarted the computer and like magic a new cookie was formed and I was in. So, Mia was absolutely on target and I much appreciate her note. I think if you kept my note to you I copied the exact wording I got on my computer when I couldn’t get into your blog. My daughter recommended to me to eliminate all the cookies and restart should be done once or twice a year. That eliminates tased space according to her. The only trouble with that is that it also eliminates the history for each of those websites. So I will probably take her advice on all those websites where I do’t keep any history.

        Off to be for me.

  • Mikal Deese

    Always good to remember mortality every once in a while. Sometimes we’re the rabbit, sometimes the hawk. And always start with the head. It’s a raptor rule. Thank you for sharing your work! (In rehab right now, I have 5 species of hawks, from a tiny male Sharpie at 85 grams to a whopper Ferruginous at over 1850. Amazing to see the range.)

  • Shirley

    I remember a couple of cat shows that I entered a cat or two in with the same entry clerk making typo errors so when I contacted her for a correction to be made she would always reply, “Sorry Shirley, finger burp!” You may have had the same issue Ron (lol). Nice shot of the Rough-legged Hawk, a Raptor that I have yet to see. So far, other than a Kestrel or a Merlin, I have only seen a Red-tailed Hawk so will just have to be happy with your photos, Ron. Thank you so very much.

  • I suffer with dyslexic fingers myself and refuse to categorise it as stupid.
    Pretty? This shot is magnificent.
    The splash of colour adds to the image. What a privilege to see. And share.

  • April Olson

    Beautiful, it’s exciting when it all works out so well in a photo!

  • Patty Chadwick

    This is a ” pretty” shot…the bird is beautiful and fierce, the leafless shrubs frame the bird and the touch of red “goriness” adds color. Didn’t know that they start with the head…another interesting bit of information….

  • Kent Patrick-Riley

    Worth waiting for overnight!

  • I really like this Ron, nicely done indeed. Great job on the always challenging snow exposure. I understand your sentiments on the beauty of seeing birds (and other animals) engaging in natural behaviours in natural settings. This is a great follow up to your previous post on baiting. I’m constantly amazed at the variety of birds that you are able to locate and photograph so well!

    • What a fun blast from the past to hear from you again, Gary. You were always one of the folks at NPN I respected most. Thank you for your insightful comment (especially about this post being a great follow up to the previous one).

  • Susan Stone

    This shot is just gorgeous. It definitely touches me, though I don’t understand why I would like something with blood and guts. Maybe because it is so real, and there is no mistaking it for something fake, there’s nothing deceptive in it. I hear you about the ugliness in the world, and this shot does help to counteract that.

  • Alice Beckcom

    This is such a beautiful scene with the beautiful hawk and its pantaloons against the pure as white snow and enhanced by the blood and sagebrush.

    Thank you, Ron.

    • I’m happy to know that you thought the blood was an enhancement, Alice. In this case I strongly agree with you but many others might think of that blood as a detriment.

  • Marina schultz

    Your skill … and your luck!!! In being at the right place at the right time!!!!!!! I have only seen two Roughlegged hawks in my birding career and let alone with prey!!!!!

  • Robert (RJ) Davis

    ‘Even though this may not be a “pretty” shot it’s photos like this that stir my soul because all of its elements are natural and the prey gives us a glimpse of the rawness of nature’. This says it all. You have an unflinching honesty in what you document with your photography. To view nature without interference in its purpose is to truly respect it.

    • “You have an unflinching honesty in what you document with your photography”

      I appreciated your entire comment but this part especially, Robert. Thanks very much.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Sensational shot Ron!

  • Marty K

    This shot may not have the same degree of difficulty as some of your others, but it is fantastic in its own right. Everet’s comment hit the nail on the head. That eye to eye contact gives me goosebumps and I love seeing pantaloons!

    I did get excited when I saw the email last night, thinking bonus post! When the link 404ed me, I just chalked it up to an instance of “premature publication.” 😉

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! We caused what I believe to be a Rough-legged Hawk to miss a pigeon in our lane the other day when turning a corner in the lane. Pigeon got another day and the 2 magpies that were ready to try and take it or harass the hawk were also left standing giving us “the look”…… Curious as to why they start at the neck area first – they also do that with a chicken? Glad it’s just “nimble fingers” and not someone messing with your site!

  • Even though this shot is not as technically challenging as flight shots, it’s one of my favorite shots of anything you’ve posted. I have a preference to raptors and this has it all. It shows their predatory nature, has eye contact with the viewer, is beautifully framed by the sagebrush in the background, has a brilliant touch of color and the eye level perspective is the icing on the cake! Love it!