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Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni


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Swainson's Hawk
credit: Pharaoh Hound/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family

Description ADULT Light morph has mainly dark brown upperparts. Head is mainly dark, except for white forehead, chin, and throat. Has rufous brown breast band, but underparts are otherwise gleaming white. In flight, from below shows rufous brown head and chest (except for white throat), otherwise white body plumage and wing coverts, and gray flight feathers and finely barred tail. Adult dark morph is mainly uniformly dark brown, except for rufous "pants" and pale vent. In flight, seen from below can look all-dark, but rufous wing coverts seen in good light. Adult intermediate has dark upperparts, white "face," dark breast, and mainly barred rufous underparts, except for pale vent. JUVENILE Similar to their adult morph counterparts except that rufous elements of plumage are replaced by streaked brown on otherwise pale feathering. Light morph juvenile has a very pale head, hence very similar to Rough-legged; note differences in tail and underwing pattern, especially absence in Swainson's of contrastingly dark carpal patches.

Dimensions Length: 18-22" (46-56 cm); Wngspn: 4' 1" (1.2 m)

Habitat Widespread and locally common in open prairie country. Long-distance migrant that summers in western North America, but winters in southern South America.

Observation Tips Migrates in large flocks in fall.

Range Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Great Lakes, Texas, Florida, Southwest, Western Canada, New England, California, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Plains

Voice Utters high-pitched whistles and screams.

Discussion Large, well-marked raptor with variable plumage. Rather long-winged: wings often extend beyond tail in perched birds; often hovers. Sexes are similar.