Time to be on the Lookout for Juvenile Swainson’s Hawks

/, Birds, Centennial Valley, Montana, Swainson's Hawks/Time to be on the Lookout for Juvenile Swainson’s Hawks

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk perched on a power poleJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk perched on a power pole – Nikon D500, f9, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I saw my first juvenile Swainson’s Hawk of the year last week and although it didn’t give me any opportunities to take better images of it I was happy to see it perched on a power pole. Swainson’s Hawks seem to nest just a bit later than Red-tailed Hawks because I typically see their young later in the year than I do the red tails.

I believe some of the Swainson’s Hawk nests in the area where I photographed this juvenile may have been destroyed in the same winds that blew down the Red-tailed Hawk nest I have been following because some of the nests I knew about were not there after that wind storm. So seeing this young Swainson’s was a bit of a relief for me because it means that some Swainson’s nests in that area survived those winds. The hurricane force winds we get here at times does make it hard for nesting birds.

Light morph Swainson's Hawk adult about to scratchLight morph Swainson’s Hawk adult about to scratch – Nikon D500, f10, 1/640, ISO 400, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

This adult Swainson’s Hawk was photographed earlier this year about 6 or 7 miles or so as a crow flies from the juvenile I photographed last week. Earlier this spring Swainson’s Hawks were everywhere in northern Utah, they are a bit harder to find now.

Swainson's Hawk juvenile on old fence postSwainson’s Hawk juvenile on old fence post – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Seeing juvenile Swainson’s Hawks always reminds me of the first time I photographed one in the Centennial Valley of Montana, at the time I didn’t even know what the young hawk was until I used my iBird Pro app to figure out that it was a Swainson’s. This is one of the photos of that young Swainson’s Hawk I photographed in September of 2010, it was a very cooperative bird and I was elated to be able to photograph it.

It is time to keep an eye out for more Swainson’s Hawk juveniles here in northern Utah, I know I will be looking for them.

Life is good.



  • Swainson’s Hawks are large hawks with short tails, broad wings, reddish brown to gray upperparts and generally have light bellies. Their plumage varies and they can be seen in light morphs, intermediate morphs and dark morphs.
  • Swainson’s Hawks are migratory, they spend the summer in western North America and the winter in South America. Swainson’s Hawks may migrate as far as 14,000 miles.
  • Swainson’s Hawks prefer wide open habitat including grasslands, prairies, agricultural fields.
  • Swainson’s Hawks eat grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies and small mammals including rabbits, voles, mice and gophers plus lizards and other birds.
  • Swainson’s Hawks lay 2 to 4 eggs which hatch in 30 days. Both sexes incubate and they are monogamous.
  • Swainson’s Hawks are also known as Grasshopper Hawks or Locust Hawks.



  1. Chuck August 15, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Not so much short tails but long wing projection that reaches the tail tip. In 4-5 weeks they’ll be huge flocks around the Dilley TX peanut / watermellon fields… and most will be sitting on ground. Spectacular sight.

    Nice article and excellent photos!!

  2. Pepe Forte August 15, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Really, really great shots Mia. But the pic of the hawk on the power pole is an absolute show stopper! Thanks.

  3. Elephants Child August 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Such majestic, beautiful, just plain marvellous birds.

  4. Patty Chadwick August 15, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Nice images–especially the first, snuggled up to the warm wood, and the second, the “pole dancer”…

  5. Laura Culley August 15, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Spectacular images! Simply spectacular! Thank you for beginning my day with these beauties. Paired with the outrageously beautiful sunrise this morning, I’m a happy girl!

  6. Steven Kessedl August 15, 2017 at 7:06 am

    The juveniles are showing up here in southeastern Arizona. In about a month the great fall Swainson’s migration will pass through here and we’ll see these hawks in flocks of dozens and even hundreds of birds for a week or two. I can’t wait.

  7. Kim August 15, 2017 at 6:22 am

    Oh, wow! Love these!

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