Swainson’s Hawks – I Watch Them, They Watch Me

For the past few days I have been watching the Swainson’s Hawk Family. I believe it consists of Mom, Dad, and two hungry, uneducated youths. Sporadically during the day, the youths start to whine for food, and they don’t let up until a meal is delivered. It kind of reminds me of when my own children still lived at home…


To make life more difficult for the parents, the hawk kids are always on the move, sometimes perching on a hay bale, sometimes in the top of a tree, and sometimes on a post – but invariably about 1/2 mile or more from where the parents are hunting. This means Mom and Dad Hawk have a general idea of what “street” the kids are hanging out on, but no idea what the house number is.


The other day I was standing on the road in front of our property taking pictures of the golden hay bales glowing in the late afternoon sun. All of a sudden the hawks started to arrive from the woods beyond the hay field.


Some took up positions in the top of some trees in my front yard. One bird chose a poplar branch which was just a bit too floppy to support its weight. The branch tipped and swayed, while the bird did its best to readjust its hold and maintain its balance, all the while still calling for someone or something.


Then one of the hawks (I think it was mom or dad) made a few long, gliding passes about 30 feet above my head. I don’t know if it was inspecting me out of curiosity or whether it was warning me to go away. I took a few pictures, then retreated into our woods.


The Swainson’s Hawk parents will continue to feed their offspring for a few more weeks, then the young will head off on their own. In about a month, all of these hawks will start their annual fall migration to the pampas of South America, a distance of about 7000 miles. Next spring the same pair of hawks will return to this area to start another family (assuming they both survive and the fields around here provide enough rodents to eat).

The Feather Files
Name: Buteo swainsoni
Species: Swainson’s Hawk
Native to and Migration: In fall they fly to their Argentine wintering grounds in one of the longest migrations of any raptor. They form flocks of hundreds or thousands as they travel.
Date Seen: June, 2012
Location: a few miles North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

16 thoughts on “Swainson’s Hawks – I Watch Them, They Watch Me

  1. This made me a little sad and reminded me of a song that Judy Collins and Peter, Paul, and Mary sang called “The Coming of the Roads.” We’ve lost so much in the name of progress. Terrific pictures and poignant comment, Margie.


  2. Your Hawks are so Majestic. I’m always awestruck when we are blessed with the resident Hawks flying around especially when they bring their young with them.
    Your final thoughts of construction and destruction is so disheartening. Unfortunately it’s the sad possible future for alot of the countryside, farm lands and fields.
    I think you should stay and be a thorn in the side of the developers and post about the loops they’re jumping through trying to woo you out of your land. It might be quite entertaining. 🙂


    1. Hi EC – Unfortunately we don’t own much of the land that will be impacted. But I will be taking my best shot at reminding the developers that there are animals, people, and geological resources here that deserve some consideration.


  3. I’m always fascinated by bird migration– how they organize themselves to fly as a group and how they fly to save energy as they fly together. Amazing! Those are precious pictures! Thank you, Margie!


    1. Hi Amy – Bird migration is utterly fantastic. Our hawks will rise high on thermals and ride them until they can catch the next one, thus saving energy. They will rest every night, and eat very little for the entire journey!


  4. Progress – it has different meanings, doesn’t it? Across the street from my house are some baseball fields with stadium lights. Every spring, a hawk builds a giant nest on top of one of the stadium lights. It’s a sight to behold! Animals are so much more adaptable than we humans. Amazing photos, girl!


    1. Hi SDS – Yes, many wild animals have members that are quite adaptable. The golf course where I frequently play has a hawk family that lives right next to a tee box and all the water hazards are homes to ducks and geese. Sometimes we lose a ball down a gopher hole, and it isn’t uncommon to find a rabbit observing me as I look for a lost ball in the rough!


  5. Hi Margie,
    They are beautiful birds, and your photo’s are great, really nice shots. It’s always a shame to see lovely open spaces being turned into building, factories, shopping centers etc. but unfortunately there isn’t a lot we can do, population gets bigger etc. the old story, but your idea of showing the pictures is great, people do tend to forget about what is around them.


    1. Hi Mags – I agree that it is important to keep people aware of the wildlife that is made homeless by development… Now, if the deer would just go find a new home, my garden would be happier.


  6. Mmm… I’m with you… posted a pic of a sparrowhawk today on my nature photography blog (link in side panel in absurd old bird). Had to shoo it away so it wouldn’t eat our smaller friends, but one day – if we’re very unlucky – stuff round here will change for the worse. We’re fighting a battle at the moment to stop National Grid and the government building huge pylons all over our part of Wales (mid-Wales). It’s horrible and unnecessary given the amount of extra energy it’ll produce (not much) and the huge amount of upheaval and destruction of natural habitats. We’d have to say goodbye to so much.


    1. Hi Val – I’ll have to come and visit your sparrowhawk photos. The nearest we seem to have to a bird that is called a sparrowhawk is the American Kestrel. It is actually a falcon, and apparently they breed in my province. I’ll have to watch for them.
      New sources of energy always come at a cost of some sort or other, don’t they!


  7. Hello there,
    I just discovered your blog. Your photos are great and made me recall praririe summers of my youth. I gave up in ground gardening and have a container garden on my deck instead. As the studio is on the ground floor and home is above I can watch the deer feeding below from the deck. We are have number of duck species, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, red-tailed hawks and great blue herons here. But I do miss the call of the loons on lakes.


    1. Hi timethief – It sounds like you have a great number of birds and animals to observe. Each part of Canada certainly has unique wildlife!


  8. Isn’t that just like young hawks. Their parent cater to them, feed them, do everything for them, then one day they up and leave without a backward glance. They’re off for greener pastures, independent now, with no thought for the poor, lonely hawk parents whose hearts are breaking. And like you said, someday those young hawks will come circling back, wondering what ever happened to their parents, only to find the green fields and golden wheat have been plowed under and the parents are mouldering in the brand, new assisted-living facility that was built on their former hunting grounds!

    The hawk parents, I mean. The hawks.


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