Emily (Swainson’s Hawk)

Emily, Swainson’s Hawk (photo by Kay Cross)

Emily is a female Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swansoni), hatched in 2015 in the state of Utah. Swainson’s Hawks occupy the open fields of the Great Plains and the western part of the United States. During the breeding season they are highly territorial, defending the area they need to hunt to provide offspring with small mammals, lizards and birds. Outside the breeding season, these birds are known for their highly social behaviors including social feeding, roosting and migration. Their foraging habits change dramatically when they are no longer caring for young. They switch their food source almost entirely to large insects such as grasshoppers and dragonflies. When fire occurs on open grasslands, Swainson’s Hawks are known to come from miles around to feed on the fleeing insects and small rodents – a behavior called fire following. These birds have relatively long pointed wings for a Buteo, which scientists attribute to their migratory behavior. They are recognized for having one of the longest migrations of any North American raptor, 12,000 miles round-trip for the northernmost birds, travelling to the pampas of Argentina in the fall where they find open grasslands to feed. Emily was named for a dear friend of ours in New York State who is a budding naturalist and bird lover.