A poor photo of a good bird in Rice County—a Swainson’s Hawk. This individual was first reported by Gerry Hoesktra, who saw it on several occasions this summer. After several previous searches, John Holden and I finally found it on Wednesday. It flew from telephone wires next to the road to a perch high in a distant oak.
Over the years, I have seen a few in the county. This raptor is western, breeding in the Great Plains, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Western Minnesota is normally as far east as this species breeds. Swainson’s Hawks winter in Argentina. They form flocks during migration, a flight over 10,000 km each direction. An incredible 845,000 individuals have been censused during the fall migration over Veracruz, Mexico (Bechard et al. 2010). Although Swainson’s Hawks eat mammals, birds, and reptiles, perhaps one reason for these seasonal movements is their fondness for grasshoppers, dragonflies, and caterpillars—all abundant in the Great Plains and the Argentine pampas.