Swainson’s hawk

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Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Swainson’s Hawks are great voyagers. During migrations, they might travel 11,000 miles between North and South America. They find grasshoppers and dragonflies when they are in South America during our winter; returning here, they hunt for voles and insects.

Swainson’s Hawks are buteos, meaning they are large hawks with fairly broad wings and short tails. However, Swainson’s Hawks are less hefty than many other buteos. They are slimmer and longer-winged, with their wings typically held in a shallow V when soaring.

Swainson’s Hawks are social raptors, nearly always being found in groups outside the breeding season. You may see them soaring in a kettle of migrating birds; strung out on the ground, fence posts, and utility poles when foraging on grasshoppers; or chasing swarms of dragonflies on winter quarters in Argentina.

Swainson’s Hawks are a threatened species in California; we are rapidly losing their preferred habitat—open grasslands and agricultural areas.

Our Swainson’s Hawk, Odin, was found along a roadside in Modoc County in 1999, possibly hit by a car. Her left eye was severely injured and had to be removed during treatment at our wildlife hospital. With only one eye, she cannot effectively hunt and would not survive in the wild.

Swainson’s Hawk (Dark Morph)

Though most Swainson’s Hawks are lighter in color, Lindsay acquired another Swanson’s Hawk in 2017, who is darker in color than most  Swainson’s, which is known as ‘Dark Morph.”

Before she was an ambassador, she was a patient in the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital where first arrived as a fledgling in July with injuries in both eyes after falling out of its nest. While her left eye healed well, her right eye developed a traumatic cataract. Without sight in her right eye, she will be unable to effectively hunt and survive in the wild.

Lindsay will now provide a permanent home for this dark morph Swainson’s Hawk. On your next visit to Lindsay, be sure to stop by our Animal Activity Area and meet both of our Swainson’s hawk ambassador!