Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Photo: Dianne Earley


Swainson’s Hawk
Buteo swainsonii

The Swainson’s Hawk is a migrant in Texas and western North America.  Some take up residence in Texas during the summer, especially west Texas.  These birds migrate to Argentina in the winter. Each year they may fly over 6,000 miles.  In the fall, they can be seen in groups of hundreds to thousands soaring overhead. They have been seen sitting on fence lines by the hundreds in the morning before taking off to head south.

Species information:

Length:            19”
Wingspan:       48 – 52”
Weight:           2 lbs

Plumage:  Adults have a dark head that looks like a helmet and a very dark brown back, The upper chest is dark brown while the rest is very light. In flight, the trailing edges of the wings are very dark. Immature are dark mottled overall with a light chest.

Habitat: Found in grasslands with woods nearby.

Flight:  Similar to Red-tailed Hawks. Combination of flapping and soaring.  Usually seen soaring over fields. Will kite over fields looking for prey.

Vocalization:  Similar to Red-tailed Hawk scream, but higher and weaker.

Food:  Small mammals and insects in fields.

Nesting:  Found in trees next to fields. Made of sticks and grasses.  They usually lay 2 eggs that are incubated for about 28 days. Young fledge in about 5 weeks.