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Maps show Swainson’s Hawk on the move in October

Swainson's Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk south of Calgary, Alberta. Photo by David Mundy

In On the Move, our regular column about migration, we present pairs of distribution maps from eBird that you can use to compare where interesting birds are at different times of year. We featured Swainson’s Hawk, pictured above, in our October 2017 issue.

Swainson’s Hawk


Possessing the second-longest migration of any North American raptor (only the Peregrine Falcon’s is longer), the Swainson’s Hawk regularly migrates from breeding areas in the western United States and southern Canada to wintering areas in the pampas grasslands of South America. During migration, the species concentrates in enormous numbers throughout parts of Mexico and Central America, forming kettles of swirling birds that can consist of tens of thousands of individuals. In June, Swainson’s Hawk nests in agricultural areas, prairies, and grasslands throughout the Great Basin, Mountain West, and Great Plains of the United States and southern Canada. By October, the first individuals begin to reach northern South America. Look for the species’ distinctive dihedral shape in flight, which can help separate this Buteo from others at a distance.

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Swainson’s Hawk

View reader photos of Swainson’s Hawk

Tips from Pete Dunne for identifying hawks in flight

eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. “On the Move” is written by eBird’s Garrett MacDonald, Chris Wood, Marshall Iliff, and Brian Sullivan. Submit your bird sightings at

A version of this article appeared in “Birding Briefs” in the October 2017 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe



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