Sub-adult Dark Morph Swainson’s Hawk Photos

/, Swainson's Hawks/Sub-adult Dark Morph Swainson’s Hawk Photos

Sub-adult dark morph Swainson's Hawk from a distance, Box Elder County, UtahSub-adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk from a distance – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

One year ago today I was up in northern Utah looking for birds to photograph, the sky was bright and the birds were plentiful. Among the birds I photographed were Short-eared and Burrowing Owls, a Great Blue Heron looking for prey in the sagebrush, Red-tailed Hawks and numerous Swainson’s Hawks.

There were light, intermediate and dark morph Swainson’s Hawks that I could easily photograph from inside a vehicle using it as a mobile blind, they often perch on the fence posts along side of the road and early in the spring seem less skittish than the other hawks I come across here in Utah. All of the Swainson’s I photographed the first day of May last year were adults except for what I believe was a sub-adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk and I thought that hawk was a real beauty. I’m not sure why I haven’t posted photos of this particular bird before but I wanted to do that this morning.

I photographed it from a distance at first and noticed the light colored feathers on its head, neck and breast, typically I don’t see those in an adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk (see examples here and here).

Sub-adult dark morph Swainson's Hawk on a May morning, Box Elder County, UtahSub-adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk on a May morning – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

In the spring I see far more adult Swainson’s Hawks than I do sub-adults, in fact my sightings of sub-adults are few and far between this time of the year. I read somewhere that some sub-adult Swainson’s stay on their wintering grounds in South America rather than making the long migration to their breeding grounds and that could be why I see fewer of the sub-adults here in Utah, Idaho and Montana during the spring.

Rousing sub-adult dark morph Swainson's Hawk, Box Elder County, UtahRousing sub-adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The Swainson’s Hawk was very cooperative and I was able to take a nice long series of images of it as it looked around and roused after defecating. I’m also happy that it was perched on an old, gnarly and weather worn juniper fence post rather than an ugly metal post. Wooden posts, especially old ones, are just more pleasing to my eyes.

Side view of a sub-adult dark morph Swainson's Hawk, Box Elder County, UtahSide view of a sub-adult dark morph Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I see and photograph plenty of light and intermediate morph Swainson’s Hawks but in my experience have noted that I come across fewer of the dark morphs so I am always happy when I can look through my viewfinder and focus on their dark beauty.

Life is good.

Mia

PS: If I am incorrect about this being a sub-adult I don’t mind being corrected.

5 Comments

  1. Elephants Child May 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my.

  2. Patty Chadwick May 1, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Love both bird and perch…especially the first image…I’ m a sucker for weathered wood ..

  3. Ricardo Bitran May 1, 2018 at 7:32 am

    These are gorgeous photos Mia: well composed, nicely lit, sharp, and with a soft homogeneous background. Well done.

  4. KathyGrahek May 1, 2018 at 6:16 am

    Beautiful photographs! It is a beautiful bird. I have a great fondness for raptors…I’ve never seen a Swainson’s…don’t know if they migrate east to Wisconsin. I think this species has a ‘soft’ look, or perhaps a more gentle look would be correct, about it like the Rough-Legged Hawks we get here. They ‘prey’ but look gentle about it…

  5. Bob mcpherson May 1, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Nice photos, Mia

Comments are closed.