Swainson’s Hawk On A Dead Cottonwood

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Swainson’s Hawks are warm weather residents of southern Arizona.  These birds prefer open country.  One can find them in the agricultural flatlands northwest of Tucson and in the Sulphur Springs Valley, about 60 miles southeast of town.  Like many buteos, Swainson’s Hawks are perch hunters, preferring to sit and watch for potential prey that includes small rodents.

I found this individual a few days ago perching on a dead Cottonwood tree alongside a rural dirt road.  The hawk had selected the highest and most exposed snag on the tree, the better to give it a commanding view of its surroundings.

There really is no such thing as typical Swainson’s Hawk plumage.  These birds come in a wide array of colors — ranging from pure white to nearly black — in an enormous array of combinations and patterns.  It is very typical for a Swainson’s Hawk to have a “bib” consisting of a patch of plumage on its chest that contrasts with surrounding plumage.  This hawk displays a large and boldly colored russet-brown bib.  Swainson’s Hawks also may be identified by the bright yellow skin that is at the base of their beaks, by their long wings, and by their barred tails.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1250.

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