Sunday, April 14, 2013

Season of the Swainson's Hawk

In large numbers and with great speed, these stocky, falcon-like Hawks move north to south, covering some 9,000 or more miles on their migratory journeys. For their spring move, mid through late April is prime Swainson's Hawk time in Arizona. Some birds stay in Arizona throughout the warmer months, while others stream up as far as Alaska. 

Although the Swainson's Hawks themselves are some of the more varietal raptors, with light, dark, and intermediate morphs all commingling in the same little patch of grass, it doesn't take too much to make them happy. An open field and a little raised furrow of dirt, these are the requirements for a Swainson Hawk's domain, at least for those who spend some time in Arizona.

Down along Palo Verde and other rural roads in Buckeye and Arlington, they perch, preen, bathe and hunt, sometimes with more than a dozen birds occupying a square acre of land.

It's in the spirit of the migratory season, perhaps, that they co-habitate so nicely. This fellow was even content to forage with Turkey Vultures, a sure sign of tolerance if ever there was one. 

Sure, they perch atop telephone poles like any proper raptor, but by and large they're content to occupy a lower, more proletariat position around the agricultural fields. In some locales they're even known as Locust Hawks for their dietary proclivities. This does nothing to detract from their nifty plumage variations and differentiation they bring to the Arizona farmland in the warm months. Their arrival is something to look forward to every spring, and their departure is a shame every fall.