Swainson's Hawk

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Buteo

Species: swainsoni

**Swainson's Audio Below**


  • Length: 19"
  • Wing span: 51"
  • Weight: 1.9 lb (855 grams)
  • Medium sized hawk
  • Stout bodies, broad wings and a medium-long rounded tail
  • Dark flight feathers contrast with pale inner wing and dark chest band
  • Light tail with multiple thin dark bands and one darker, broader band on the tip
  • Most have a white face
  • When perched the wingtips barley reach the tip of the tail
  • Sexes are silimar in plumage with females being larger
  • Juveniles are similar to adult form with more streaked underparts and heavy spotting on the chest


  • common small hawk of the West, the Swainson's Hawk gathers in huge congregations to migrate more than 10,000 km to its wintering grounds in South America
  • Swainson's Hawk chicks frequently kill and eat the youngest nestlings. The killing of siblings may be related to food availability, but the ultimate cause is unknown
  • The Swainson's Hawk congregates in tremendous numbers during migration. Foraging and migrating flocks sometimes number into the thousands
  • Swainson's Hawk has one of the longest migrations of any American raptor - from Canada to Argentina. Only tundra breeding Peregrine Falcons travel farther. A Swainson's Hawk can make the 10,000 km trip (6214 mi) in less than two months, averaging nearly 200 km (124 mi) per day
  • The Swainson's Hawk, declining throughout much of its range, is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning, especially on its wintering grounds. The use of pesticides in Argentina was responsible for the deaths of nearly 6,000 Swainson's Hawks in 1995 and 1996


About the Photos: (click on link to see this information)





All photographs and audio clips are ©Jamie Mullin 2006

Sources: Cornell Lab of Ornithology & The Sibley Guide to Birds.

March 21st, 2008 #228