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