The Swainson’s Hawk
A Swainson’s Hawk is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Swainson’s Hawks. We have also put together a list of fun Swainson’s Hawk t-shirts, Swainson’s Hawk bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
About Swainson’s Hawks
For a falcon that is native to North America and can also be found in South America, the Swainson’s Hawk is a large bird of the Buteo genus. It is a raptor that is locally referred to as the grasshopper hawk or the locust hawk. These colloquial names were given to the bird as a result of its liking to eating grasshoppers and locusts. The Swainson’s Hawk has declined a lot in its nesting grounds especially in California, although the cause of the decrease in their numbers is not well known.
Description and Identification
Swainson’s Hawks are large hawks that are 17-22 inches long with a wingspan of 46-54 inches.
These birds are almost of the same size as red-tailed hawks which are also widespread throughout
North America. Female Swainson’s Hawks are heavier and larger than males. The color of
the plumage of these birds can differ as they have two color variations: light morphs and dark-
morphs. Most Swainson’s Hawks are light-morphs. Adult light-morphs have completely white lower
bodies, a reddish chest, and white patches on the face and throat. The plumage on their upper
body is mostly brown. Their tails are gray-brown with the presence of a few darker narrow bands.
During the spring season, these birds have slightly paler heads as a result of feather wear. Dark-
morphs are mainly dark brown in color. Swainson’s Hawks are very social birds that generally
travel in flocks.
Swainson’s Hawk Color Pattern
They have two main color variations ranging between a light morph and a dark morph. The light morph has a white underpart with a dark reddish overall on the chest as well as a conspicuous white throat and face patch.
The darker morphs are dark brown but have a light patch under their tails. They also have a rufous variant that is especially lighter on the underparts and includes reddish bars. The tail resembles those of the light morph.
Swainson’s Hawk Size
The Swainson’s Hawk is a fairly large hawk with a body length ranging 43-56cm and a wingspan between 117-137cm. They weigh between 500-1700g.
Swainson’s Hawk Behavior
The bird often looks for prey on the ground by walking and running towards them. They run to catch insects and small mammals. While running on the ground, they partially spread their wings probably to gain some stability on their two legs.
During breeding, Swainson’s Hawks are aggressive around their nests as they chase off intruders near the nesting ground.
Swainson’s Hawk Food
Swainson’s Hawks are opportunistic birds that mostly consume insects and mammals. During
the breeding season, the majority of their diet consists of mammals. Ground squirrels, mice, voles, and
gophers are common prey. As these highly adaptive birds are opportunistic in terms of their diet,
sometimes they also feed on bats, lizards, birds, and snakes. In seasons apart from their breeding
season, these birds are heavily dependant on insects. Crickets, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and
beetles are prey they usually eat on the wing.
The Swainson’s Hawk loves locusts and grasshoppers hence on the ground most of the time. They also eat small mammals such as ground squirrels and gophers. Depending on the season, they may also eat snakes and lizards.
Swainson’s Hawk Habitat
Swainson’s Hawks are birds that are most commonly found in open habitats. These birds prefer
open conditions as they are ideal for hunting. As most of the native habitats of these birds have
been destroyed and transformed into agricultural land — these birds have adapted well to
agricultural settings. Swainson’s Hawks have become a common sight in and around fields, grain
crops, and pastures.
They like plains and grasslands where they can catch their favorite food. The falcon can also be found in farmland and ranch country.
Range and Migration
Swainson’s Hawks are large raptors that are also known as locust hawks or grasshopper hawks.
These birds are widespread throughout North America. As these birds are long-distance migrants,
they travel all the way to Argentina for their winter habitat. Swainson’s Hawks are very commonly
vagrants in Central America. The regions these birds commonly stray away to are Trinidad and
Tobago, Chile, small countries in the Dominican Republic, and Norway.
Swainson’s Hawk Life Cycle
The female clutches between 1-5 eggs and keeps them incubated for about 34-35 days when the young can hatch. The young are nested for 17-22 days when they will be ready to leave the nest. The Swainson’s Hawk has a lifespan of 16-19 years.
Swainson’s Hawk Nesting
Unlike most other birds, male Swainson’s Hawks choose nesting sites. Males are generally the first
to arrive at the breeding sites. These birds might use the same nests as before as they are known
to be monogamous in nature. This behavior is peculiar and uncommon for long-distance
migrants. The nesting site is generally on top of trees in open woodlands or in small patches of
trees that run along streams. Sometimes these birds can also nest in mesquite bushes, or on top
of electricity poles. Willows, oaks, aspens, and black locusts are trees that are favored by these
hawks for nesting. Both males and females partake in the construction of their nests, but males
assume the most amount of responsibility. The entire construction process takes up to 2 weeks.
Female Swainson’s Hawks lay about 1-5 eggs which are incubated for 34-35 days.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Swainson’s Hawks
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Swainson’s Hawks are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Swainson’s Hawk T-shirts
If you love the Swainson’s Hawk you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Swainson’s Hawk Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Swainson’s Hawk is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Swainson’s Hawk Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Swainson’s Hawk. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Swainson’s Hawks
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Swainson’s Hawks
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.