Sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk in Northern Utah

/, Box Elder County, Swainson's Hawks, Utah/Sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk in Northern Utah

Sub-adult Swainson's Hawk perched on a rusty pole, Box Elder County, UtahSub-adult Swainson’s Hawk perched on a rusty pole – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

By this time of the year Swainson’s Hawks have left Utah and headed towards South America to their wintering grounds but the memories I have of the hawks never leave me. I didn’t take as many photos of this raptor species this year while they were here and for a bit I was concerned that their population here was declining but this year I spent far more time up in the mountain canyons than I have in any year since I moved here in 2009 and I wouldn’t expect to see this hawk species in that type of habitat. I did see fewer of Swainson’s Hawk this year than normal in places where I usually find them in high numbers while they are here for their breeding season, that could be related to lack of prey though.

In June I photographed what I believe to be the most handsome sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk I’ve ever seen, I’ve noticed that sub-adult Swainson’s Hawks can look a bit ratty while they are in North America but this one sure didn’t as it perched on a rusty pole way up north in Box Elder County. Its plumage looked tidy and neat.

Sub-adult Swainson's Hawk looking over its back, Box Elder County, UtahSub-adult Swainson’s Hawk looking over its back – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Some sub-adult Swainson’s Hawks stay in South America during the breeding season so I see fewer of them than I do adults or the young of the year so to me finding one is a treat not only for my eyes but to photograph too. I waited and waited for this sub-adult Swainson’s to lift off and it didn’t surprise me that it didn’t lift off until after I left because young raptors can be so confiding and sticky, so much so that there are times I take photos of them and leave because they aren’t very active at all.

I believe this was the only sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk I photographed this year which makes it even more special to me.

Life is good.


Swainson’s Hawk facts and information:

Buteo swainsoni

  • 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.
  • A group of hawks can be called a “tower”, “knot”, “spiraling”, “stream” or “kettle” of hawks.
  • Swainson’s Hawks can live to be over 23 years of age.


  1. Elephants Child October 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Simply gorgeous.

  2. Marty K October 29, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Such a strikingly beautiful bird! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Sallie Reynolds October 29, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Which birds do you identify as juvenile, this year’s young, and which are “sub-adults,” and what’s the difference? Today’s bird looks to me much like the light-morph juveniles I’ve seen. In Central Valley California, we get a few stay-overs every year. Most seem to me to be juveniles. A second-year bird usually has more of the adult coloring than not, at least around here. Just curious.

  4. Patty Chadwick October 29, 2018 at 9:17 am

    That beautiful bird is well disguised,,,bkends right in with the old, rusty metal post😉

  5. Liz Cormack October 29, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Beautiful photo of a beautiful bird.

Comments are closed.