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Swainson's hawks in flight        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Swainson's hawks are large, graceful, long-winged buteos that summer in the western US and Canada and migrate to South America during the northern winter.   In some parts of their range their populations have suffered from agriculture and from pesticides (a particular problem in their winter habitat), and in California they are now a threatened species.   Some of the adults in these photos were breeding in the upper Owens Valley in eastern California; the other birds were migrants passing northwards through Arizona or southern California.   Many of the pictures were taken of a small 'kettle' (group) of 27 these hawks soaring over a field being mowed for hay at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Riverside, California.   Periodically one of the hawks would casually dive to snatch up a bewildered rodent displaced by the mowing machinery (below).   The birds pictures on this page show the whole range of coloration in this highly variable species, from light through 'intermediate' to dark morphs.   All have a banded pale tail, brown breast and dark head offsetting the white throat, and 'two-toned' wings with a dihedral and narrow pointed tips (notably more 'pointy' than the more widely-distributed red-tailed hawk).     The birds with heavily spotted undersides and streaked heads are juveniles.
              Pictures of perched Swainson's hawks are on this page.

  • Canon 10D, 1D Mk. II, 1D4, or 7D2; 500 mm IS lens plus 1.4X converter or 800 mm IS lens (2005, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2018)