Do You Know This Long Distance Migrator?

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A beautiful Swanson’s Hawk. Photo via Flickr DJS Photo

In the fall you can see many short and long distance migrating birds.  Some simply move to lower elevations, but some such as the Swainson’s Hawk truly travel long distances.

Children’s books, movies, and stories all show birds migrating south in the fall.  As an adult, I now that is not totally true.  Some birds do migrate to the south, but some only go a short distance or stay in the mountains all winter.  One of the birds in the Rocky Mountains that does head south and is the raptor with the longest migration is the Swainson’s Hawk.

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A Swainson’s Hawk perched in Texas.

About The Long Distance Migrating Swainson’s Hawk

The Swainson’s Hawk is common throughout the grasslands and can be often found in open grasslands.  It is about 20 inches tall with a four foot wingspan.  The head and back are brown, with a white throat and white belly.  The upper chest is a reddish brown color.

It is common throughout the Rocky Mountains and central USA in the summer.  It hunts rodents, small mammals, birds, and insects.

Where Does It Go When It Migrates?

Most migrate to southern South America (Argentina) in the winter in the USA.  However, there are some that don’t go that far and only migrate to Florida.  Just to get an idea of how far that is in miles – it is about 6,000 miles from Denver, Colorado to Patagonia, Argentina!  That is like going from Los Angeles to Boston two and a half times!  Imagine doing that twice a year under your own power…exhausting even to think about.

When Does It Make This Long Distance Migration?

They being this migration in late August and September.  While traveling they often form flocks of hundreds or thousands of birds.   When migrating they sometimes join with other birds, including Turkey Vultures, and Broad Winged Hawks.  Each one way migration can take the birds two months to complete.