Thursday, July 23, 2015

Swainson’s Hawk

Thanks to Gerry Hoestra for alerting John Holden and me of the presence of this Swainson’s Hawk along County Highway 1, just west of Dundas, Minnesota. Gerry photographed the bird on 21 July—John and I found it on the morning of Wednesday, 22 July. This species is considered to be uncommon in Rice County in the summer. Swainson’s Hawks breed across midwestern North America, from southern Canada to Northern Mexico. Southern Minnesota is the far eastern extent of their range. After breeding, they embark on a migration of over 6000 miles to wintering areas in the pampas of Argentina. When breeding, this hawk consumes rodents, rabbits, and reptiles; in the winter and during migration, it is almost entirely insectivorous, eating mainly grasshoppers.

While we were photographing this bird, it stretched its neck and proceeded to silently gape. I suspect this behavior is an example of pellet-casting, typical of hawks of owls. According to Bechard et al. (2010), Swainson’s Hawks expel one pellet per day. I did not, however, see a pellet drop.

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