Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The Swainson's hawk is one of the larger hawks of the western plains whose size and shape resembles that of the red-tailed hawk. It is found statewide with the largest concentrations in western North Dakota and is often seen soaring over the open plains and prairie. A key field characteristic to identify the Swainson's hawk is the presence of a dark bib extending from the throat to mid-breast.
The Swainson's hawk may be distinguished from the red-tailed hawk in flight by the presence of the dark bib and longer, narrower, pointed wings. The Swainson's hawk's primary prey is large insects such as crickets and grasshoppers and small rodents such as mice and ground squirrels. It will also prey upon reptiles, amphibians, and young or disabled birds.
The breeding season runs from April to August and nesting occurs either in trees or on the ground. The female lays 2 to 4 eggs and both the female and the male do the incubation which lasts about 28 days. The Swainson's hawk can be seen in North Dakota from late March until late September.