Roadside Swainson’s Hawk in Rural Montana

/, Birds, Centennial Valley, Montana, Swainson's Hawks/Roadside Swainson’s Hawk in Rural Montana

Adult Swainson's Hawk walkingAdult Swainson’s Hawk walking – Nikon D810, f5.6, 1/1600, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I probably photograph Swainson’s Hawks on the ground more than any other hawk species I aim my camera at but it isn’t all that often that I am able to photograph them as close as this adult hawk was to me. The bird had been hidden in the roadside grasses and was flushed when the vehicle went by but only flew over the fence onto the ground instead of flying further away.

It is hard to see in this image but the fence was between the hawk and my camera and the wire fencing material isn’t visible. The only explanation I have for the invisible wire fence is that I was close to both the bird and the fence and perhaps my depth of field and my lens smoothed the wires out so much that they visually disappeared.

Swainson's Hawk behind a fenceSwainson’s Hawk behind a fence – Nikon D810, f5.6, 1/2000, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I know they were there.

The Swainson’s Hawk had dropped its prey when it flushed and instead of flying over to it the hawk walked through a hole in the fence, through the grasses and into a shallow ditch where it grabbed a dead rodent (probably a vole) and flew off to finish its interrupted breakfast. The image above was taken just before the hawk went through a hole in the fence at ground level.

I thought the invisible fence made this roadside Swainson’s Hawk in rural Montana an interesting subject to share.

Life is good.



  1. Deborah July 23, 2016 at 2:23 am

    He’s sure a beauty!
    So well photographed.

  2. Elephant's Child July 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Power, grace, style. And britches.

  3. April Olson July 22, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Beautiful healthy looking bird.

  4. Wally July 22, 2016 at 9:22 am

    What a great opportunity to produce some really magical photographs of a beautiful raptor! Pretty neat effect of the disappearing fence! Now, if I can just master that technique and learn to apply it on purpose!

  5. Carol July 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Beautiful shots. I really do like the one with the fence showing a bit….really does capture the moment. Love all your photos!!

  6. Bob McPherson July 22, 2016 at 7:28 am

    You have”Done It” again Mia, Beautiful images, such interesting light and catch light. I truly enjoy your work.

  7. Glen Fox July 22, 2016 at 7:11 am

    One of the most beautiful Swainson’s Hawks I have ever seen!

  8. Liz Cormack July 22, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Wow! Awesome bird & awesome photo.

  9. Roger Burnard July 22, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Mia… how you manage to find so many different species of hawks, and owls
    just amazes the “bajeebers” out of me. If I was to come upon as many as you
    do, I’m sure I would have to find a bottle of tranquilizers to keep my heart rate
    down. A “regal bird,” and you captured that posture beautifully… Well done. ;-)))

  10. Steven Kessel July 22, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Gorgeous. I think you can see the pattern of the fence very faintly against the background. It doesn’t detract from the image at all. I’ve shot coyotes through fences more than once with the identical effect.

    We have a few Swainson’s Hawks breeding here in southern Arizona but for us, peak season is late September when they gather here briefly in huge flocks of 100s of birds on their way south. Your beautiful image has whetted my appetite for their arrival.

    • Mia McPherson July 22, 2016 at 6:01 am

      Steven, I had forgotten to add the image with the fencing material showing that was taken just before the hawk walked through the hole in the fence. I meant to add it before I posted. Haven’t had enough coffee! Thanks for your comment!

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