- Length: 19 – 24 inches
- Wingspan: 48-60 inches
- Weight: male 600-1370 gm, female 780-1660 gm
The Rough-legged Hawk has a proportionally longer wings and tail than the typical buteo. Plumage is variable but all birds, including immatures, have a white tail with conspicuous broad dark terminal band. Females have one narrow inconspicuous bar above the broad subterminal band while the males have several light tail bars. There are dark and light phase birds.
Dark phase: Adults have all dark bodies with the aforementioned white-banded tail. In flight the underwings display much white.
Light phase: Adults have a light brown head that contrasts with a darker brown body. In flight, the black at the bend of the wing and the white tail identify this bird. Most light phase birds show a black belly, but some only have brown belly barring.
Immatures have a rather conspicuous white edging to the tail below a single brown band, as well as, small white patches at the base of the primaries on the upperwing.
The bird is named for the feathering on the tarsi suggesting a rabbit’s leg.