Swainson’s Hawks — A Few More Images

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full screen image.

A few days ago I published some images of Swainson’s Hawks, members of a fairly large flock of these birds that had stopped to rest in rural Arizona during their annual migration.  Today, I’m posting a few more images of the members of the flock that my friend Ned Harris and I observed.

Swainson’s Hawks are not particularly social birds except when they migrate.  Then, they form flocks that may number hundreds of individuals.  Their annual migration covers thousands of miles, from the bird’s summer homes on the United States’ and Canada’s western plains down to the hawks’ winter residences on the pampas of Argentina, and back again in the spring.

I’ve written a few times about how attractive these hawks are.  In my opinion, Swainson’s Hawks may be the prettiest of all buteos, not just because of their graceful shapes, but because of their subtly beautiful plumage, which varies enormously among individual hawks.  I’m showing images of three different individuals today.  They each sport very different plumage.

The Swainson’s Hawk in the second image might, to an inexperienced observer, look like a member of a totally different species than the first hawk.  There is little resemblance in plumage.  However, both birds display the identical morphology.  Look at the two birds’ heads, for example, and it becomes apparent almost immediately that they are both Swainson’s Hawks.

Perching, the second bird comes across as being almost solidly dark in color.  However, in flight, the much lighter undersides of its wings come into view, as does the hawk’s broad and banded tail.

Here’s a third bird and it, too, displays unique plumage.

Once again, the bird’s head shape tells us that this is definitely a Swainson’s Hawk.  In fact, all three birds display  additional shared features.  And all of them (although it’s not visible in the first image) display the classic Swainson’s Hawk “bib,” an area of contrasting color on the hawks’ upper chests.

A small population of these birds stays behind in southern Arizona and breeds each summer.  As the season progresses I’ll search for breeding pairs and, of course, their offspring when they fledge.

Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f5.6.  Shutter speeds varied between 1/1250 and 1/2500.

One response to “Swainson’s Hawks — A Few More Images”

  1. Tom Munson says :

    Nice work, Steve. Ours are not here yet.

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