During 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998 expeditions across Mongolia, we located over 250 upland buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) nests. At these, we noted considerable morphological variation in plumage coloration and in leg pterylosis. In 1997 and 1998, we examined 131 nests scattered across eastern and central Mongolia and report here the tarsal condition of 119 nestlings from 59 broods where young were at least 2 weeks of age. Of 119 birds carefully examined, 50 (42%) had less than fully feathered tarsi and 4 of the 69 with fully feathered tarsi had scattered feathers on their toes. Thus, 54 of 119 birds (45%) in some way deviated from the feathered tarsibare toes condition. This extraordinary degree of variability in feather patterns may be best explained as the result of extensive and relatively recent hybridization between the longlegged (Buteo rufinus) and roughlegged (B. lagopus) buzzards and/or between long-legged and upland buzzards.
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Pronounced variation in tarsal and foot feathering in the upland buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) in Mongolia