Swainson’s Hawk in the Centennial Valley

Adult Swainson's Hawk callingAdult Swainson’s Hawk calling

Swainson’s Hawks are one of the three Buteos that I see with regularity on my visits to the Centennial Valley of Montana, Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks are the other two.  I photographed this adult Swainson’s Hawk in the Centennial Valley one evening last year on the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge after a rainy afternoon, the light was low and I had to bump my ISO up to 1250 to get enough shutter speed for flight shots and because of that I could detect a touch of noise in the background so I applied Noise Reduction to the background of all three of these images.

The Swainson’s was calling to another Swainson’s off in the distance and since it had just defecated I was waiting for the hawk to lift off.

Swainson's Hawk at the moment of lift offSwainson’s Hawk at the moment of lift off

And lift off it did! This sort of reminds me of the Olympic diver images we see that have just their toes left on the diving platforms. The talons have just left the fencepost and there appears to be a determined look in the Swainson’s Hawk’s eye. I do wish the light had been just a bit better so I could have completely froze the action but sometimes that motion blur helps to emphasize the feeling of motion.

Adult Swainson's Hawk calling while in flightAdult Swainson’s Hawk calling while in flight

As the adult flew it also started calling and flying towards the other Swainson’s in the distance.

By the way, the light colored areas in the background is a mist hanging over one of the lakes within the Red Rock Lakes refuge and the bluish colored area is part of the Centennial Mountains.


~I’m out of town but will be back soon, please feel free to share this post with your friends and family!


  1. Mia McPherson May 27, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Thank you all for your comments.

  2. eric c11 May 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    wonderfull move catched, good job mia ☺

  3. Bob Bushell May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Beautiful Hawk images Mia. Have a nice holiday, I think.

  4. Lynn Koch May 15, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Beautiful capture, Mia! I love his coloring and feather patterning. Really lovely!

  5. Julie Brown May 15, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Nice series, Mia. I can’t think of anyone who shoots raptors better than you do!

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