Dark morph Swainson’s Hawk on the wing

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk on the wingDark morph Swainson’s Hawk on the wing – Nikon D7100, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I have only culled two days of the six days I photographed up in eastern Idaho and southwestern Montana, I took thousands of images so it will take time to get through them all and sort the bad from the good.

There were fewer raptors this trip than I am used to seeing and I feel concerned about that because in past years the numbers of raptors were much higher. Perhaps the late cold snap in the Centennial Valley forced at least the Swainson’s Hawks to move a bit further south because the cold may have killed the grasshoppers which are their preferred prey.

This dark Swainson’s Hawk was on a hillside that we came upon while leaving the Centennial Valley to head back to Utah. It lifted off after a few moments and I was able to get this image with its wings fully spread and some grasses, sagebrush and blurred flowers in the frame.

Hopefully the next trip there will be more raptors and their young in the areas where I have grown used to seeing them.


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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. This shot reminds me of the snaps of raptors I sometimes have managed to capture with my point-and-shoot at Hogle Zoo’s birdshows, except for your much more pleasing background.

  2. Glorious image. And yes, I do hope that the grasshoppers return for them. And I never thought I would see the merit in ‘hoppers.

  3. There are two dark morphs I see almost every time I go to the north side of the valley. One is along Brundage road and the other lives near a ranch between Brundage road and the Nature Conservancy site. He and his female are often on the entrance posts to the ranch. She is much bigger than him and is the lighter colored morph with a speckled breast.

    The cold spell really hurt the mountain bluebirds also. Most of the eastern ones died because they were too young and I think there was neither enough food or warmth for them. Most of the older bluebirds on the west side made it. Now the birds are busy renesting.

    Great to meet you – sorry I didn’t get back to visit more.

  4. Patty Chadwick

    I hope things get tester for them…and you!

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