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