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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Swainson's Hawk -- Buteo swainsoni

RANGE: Breeds locally in east-central Alaska, Yukon, and Mackenzie, and from central Alberta and central Saskatchewan to western Illinois south to southern California, central and southern Texas, and western Missouri. Winters primarily on the pampas of southern South America, casually north to the southwestern United States and southeastern Florida.

STATUS: Common; population has decreased in the southern Great Plains.

HABITAT: Inhabits prairies, plains, deserts, large mountain valleys, savannahs, open pine-oak woodlands, and cultivated lands with scattered trees.

NEST: Nests in isolated trees, in shrubs and trees along wetlands and drainages, in windbreaks in fields and around farmsteads, in giant cactus, or on the crossbars of telephone poles. Occasionally nests on the ground, on low cliffs, on rocky pinnacles, or on cutbanks. May build nest up to 100 feet above ground in cottonwoods, or lower in willows or other shrubs. May repair and use same nest year after year; sometimes builds on old black-billed magpie nests.

FOOD: Hunts primarily from perches such as fence posts or low trees and from a vantage point on the ground. Diet consists of small mammals, birds, fishes, salamanders, frogs, snakes, and insects.

REFERENCES: Dunkle 1977, Evans in Farrand 1983a, Heintzelman 1979, Sprunt 1955, Tate and Tate 1982, Terres 1980.

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