Swainson’s Hawk

Peak Migration: Sept
Record Daily High: 32 on Sept 9, 1988
Record Seasonal High: 33 in 1988

Named for William Swainson, an English ornithologist of the early 1800’s.

Other names: Black hawk, brown hawk, grasshopper hawk.

Hunting habits: Often hunts in flocks, for grasshoppers and crickets. Sometimes waits for a ground squirrel or pocket gopher to appear at the entrance of its burrow. Attracted to swarms of flies and bats. Takes all kinds of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Migrating habits: Huge kettles of migrants may be seen on the Texas coast, but few of these western birds are seen at Hawk Ridge. Most often the stray Swainson’s is seen with kettling Broad-winged Hawks in September.

Nesting habits: Conspicuous nest often set in lone tree, shelterbelts (more typical in North Dakota), or low in cactus. Both parents incubate the 2-4 eggs for about 28 days. Young leave nest when about a month old. They chase insects on the ground before they learn to hunt other prey.

Length: 43-55 cm

Wingspan: 120-137 cm

Weight: 595-1240 grams (average about 849 grams)

Life expectancy: One banded in Laramie, Wyoming was shot and killed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when 9 years, 7 months old. Another banded bird survived 15 years, 11 months.

Image Credits: Michael Furtman