Juvenile Swainson’s Hawk expelling a pellet

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk in flightJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk in flight

Last summer I was able to see and photograph a juvenile Swainson’s Hawk expelling a pellet in the Centennial Valley of Montana. The young hawk, it’s sibling and one of the adults were in the area when this hawk flew onto a fence post close to the road.

Juvenile Swainson's HawkJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk

One of the things I noticed first was how the back of the neck of the immature Swainson’s Hawk seemed enlarged, that is a pretty big bump.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk attempting to expel a pelletJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk attempting to expel a pellet

Then the juvenile hawk bent over and repeatedly opened its bill, it was fairly obvious that the hawk was struggling. The lump seemed to move slightly forward with each attempt.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk expelling a pelletJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk expelling a pellet

After several minutes the hawk expelled two rather large pellets, this frame shows the first pellet as it exits the hawk’s bill.

Wing lift after expelling pelletWing lift after expelling pellet

When the pellet expulsion was completed the juvenile Swainson’s lifted its wings, shook itself and flew off.

Pellet that the juvie Swainson's Hawk expelledPellet that the juvie Swainson’s Hawk expelled

This is one of the pellets the hawk expelled, it consists of bones, fur and other undigested materials. Some folks might think this is gross, I see it as being as natural as this juvenile Swainson’s Hawk taking flight.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. I love this series Mia! Haven’t had time to check in lately, but I love what you’ve posted lately. I kind of like catching up and getting to see so many wonderful images and your great narrative. Can’t wait to read more!

  2. Gross but honest. I love that you caught that – no worse than my poop shots – haha! Lovely bird!!

  3. Mia, one of our tasks as volunteers at the hospital was to pick up pellets from the raptor aviaries, for examination. So, I didn’t think I’d ever be grossed out by a pellet. But, this winter, I found some Snowy Owl pellets I collected for analysis … rain-soaked. I opted to turn that particular photo into a b&w image (documentation). Too much for me. ;)

  4. Great capture Mia! Great comments above too!

  5. Brrrrrp

  6. Absolutely superb, bringing up its dinner, cheers Mia.

  7. Very cool. Great shots Mia.

    We can all relate to the Hawk I’m sure. : )

  8. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    I think of this series of photos as fascinating. You certainly are a treasure to bring us up close and real to events people like me would never have a chance to experience. Many thanks. I must say, that image of the wing lift is magnificent!!!

  9. Great images, as usual. I think the series is interesting. I enjoy learning all aspects of avian behavior.

  10. Great story and detailed images Mia.. Lucky I had already finished my corn flakes ;)

  11. Impressive Mia, it almost looks like the hairball cats get too.

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