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Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Swainson's Hawk


  • The Swainson's hawk is about 50 centimetres (20 inches) long.


  • A fairly common hawk of the prairies, the Swainson's hawk is identified by the dark breast and contrasting light throat and abdomen.
  • The head, back, primaries and breast are all a dark brownish grey. The belly is cream to white in color.
  • The tail is finely barred with a dark terminal band. A rare dark phase, where the entire body appears all black except for the face and banded tail, does exist.
  • In flight, the wings are tilted slightly upwards, similar to the northern harrier.
  • Most of western North America is included in the breeding range, but winters are spent as far south as Argentina.
Natural History
  • Open areas, as found in the grassland, foothill and parkland regions, fit the lifestyle of the Swainson's hawk.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Nests are built in bushes or trees, and three to five eggs are laid.
  • Swainson's hawks are late nesters and the young birds may not leave the nest until the end of July.
Conservation and Management


The Swainson's hawk is classified as Sensitive in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:


  • Population is dependent on healthy ground squirrel population and is exposed to pesticide poisoning on its winter range.

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the Swainson's hawk is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014