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ABC Bird of the Week:  Swainson’s Hawk

This handsome western buteo, which occurs in both light and dark morphs (color variations), was named for British naturalist William Swainson. Some of its folk names—“grasshopper hawk” or “locust hawk”—reflect this bird’s tastes in prey.

Starting in late August, nearly the entire population of Swainson’s Hawks migrates south to Argentina and Brazil in huge “kettles” or flocks. Over 800,000 Swainson’s Hawks can pass by single hawk-watching sites in Veracruz, Mexico, in a single fall day.

The species’ migration is a round trip of more than 12,000 miles—the longest of any North American raptor.

In the 1990s, Swainson’s Hawks showed an alarming decline in the western U.S., which was traced to heavy mortality on their wintering grounds. An estimated 35,000 birds had died in Argentina in one season alone, carpeting the ground with dead birds in some places…

(read more: American Bird Conservatory)

photograph by Ian Maton


Shared by West Coast Falconry on Facebook: “Here is a priceless photo! Neither birds are West Coast Falconry’s. A captive Harris Hawk at a museum up north was eating it’s rat on a perch outside when a wild female kestrel attempted to steal the rat. She left unharmed and empty taloned. Perfect photo timing = priceless image. :)”


There’s a lot of them!

Looks like a migratory kettle to me!  We are now in the time of year where birds of prey are migrating south.  They sometimes gather in huge numbers on sunny days with southerly winds on migration corridors.  There are places all across the USA (and into Mexico) where people can go to watch raptors migrate in huge numbers.

To find a Hawk Watch location near you:

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