Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 28,800-58,200 pairs, which equates to 57,600-117,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 15% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 384,000-780,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The Partners in Flight Science Committee (2020a) estimate the global population to be 590,000 (equivalent to 395,000 mature individuals), based on a population of 300,000 in the USA and Canada. The population is therefore placed in the band 350,000-800,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species has had stable population trends since 1970 in North America (Partners in Flight 2020b). In Europe the population size is also estimated to be stable (BirdLife International in prep.). The population in some areas fluctuates according to the abundance of small mammals (Bechard et al. 2020).


Shooting or trapping by ranchers and farmers was historically a significant threat, but appears to be less so now (Bechard et al. 2020). However, it may still be an important cause of mortality in some areas, particularly on wintering grounds (Bechard et al. 2020). It also suffers mortality from collisions with cars, electrocution from powerlines (Mebs and Schmidt 2006) and accidental capture in traps set for fur-bearing mammals (Orta et al. 2015). The species may also suffer reduced reproductive success from fluctuating weather caused by climate change (Pokrovsky et al. 2012). An increase in rainfall caused by climate change may increase the risk of nest collapse (Beardsell et al. 2017). In the past, organochlorine pesticide treatments were thought to pose a threat to the species in the U.S.A. (Henny et al. 1984). Grazing livestock in meadows and marshes may reduce the suitability of these habitats for foraging in overwintering areas (Littlefield et al.1992).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway
The species is listed on CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MoU Category 3 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is covered by the North American Christmas Bird Count with high reliability score, and is monitored in all four European countries in which it breeds (Derlink et al. 2018).

Conservation actions needed
Further research is necessary to establish the effects of livestock grazing or other agricultural practices at wintering areas, and the extent of mortality caused by vehicle collisions and shooting.


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Ashpole, J, Butchart, S. & Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Buteo lagopus. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.