Swainson’s Hawk Buddies

On the evening of our last full day in Montana we spotted a couple of Swainson’s Hawks engaging in a playful dogfight down the dirt road in front of us.  As we got closer they hopscotched from post to post as they interacted with each other but both birds allowed me to get fairly close for a few minutes.


swainson hawk 7147 ron dudley

This one is a sub-adult, not quite into the full glory of its adult plumage.



swainson's hawk 7175 ron dudley

But I thought the second bird, a mature adult, looked quite spectacular – almost regal.

For most of the year this species consumes grasshoppers almost exclusively but during the breeding season their diet is similar to that of other buteos and includes rodents, rabbits and reptiles.  In this area their prey in summer consists largely of voles and you can see blood from a recent meal on the lower belly.

Soon after this shot was taken a huge logging truck came down the road and spooked the bird (despite the admirable efforts of the driver to avoid doing so when he saw our big lenses).  No take-off shot this time because the hawk took off to my left and its face was in shade in the one sharp shot that I got.


Note:  I’m on the road again and will be for much of the week.  I’ll have no computer access on this trip so I won’t be able to respond to any comments that may be made (though I do get them via phone email and enjoy reading them while I’m in the field).


14 comments to Swainson’s Hawk Buddies

  • Charalotte Norton

    Sensational shots of both Ron!

  • How I envy you being there. Anthromorphism or not, I am fascinated by just how much playing that birds do – and love it. These are simply glorious birds. Thank you so much. Again.
    And have a wonderful jaunt.

  • Mike Shaw


  • Patty Chadwick

    I LIKE having the bad nasties (heavy hand of man) removed and barely noticing the soft, unobtrusive, subject-featuring backgrounds….both manipulate reality in a good way…that’s the whole point. Once you’ve captured your shot, your memory probably erases a lot of things, our eyes and are memories get stuck with…like a wire going through some nice bird’s hea!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Dear Ron-who-worries about removing an ugly line, etc. but whose choice of apertures removes THE WHOLE WORLD! THE WHOLE UNIVERSE behind his subject of choice…what’s the difference …Huh? Huh? Huh? I rest my case.

    • Patty, You accused me of blurring the background and chastised me for it. I didn’t. I rest my case.

      You may not like the bokeh of that shot – that’s fine. I love it. And IMO there’s a huge difference between cloning out elements in an image and using an aperture and lens that softens the background. You obviously disagree. That’s fine, too.

  • Beautiful photos. I especially like the adult photo, and in looking at it and thinking about the way it speaks to me, I suddenly understand why it is you go for eye contact in photos. It clearly gives them a dimension that others don’t have, that really draws me in.

  • Patty Chadwick

    You’d make a good Lakota…believe me, that’s a compliment…

  • Patty Chadwick

    We see juvenile eagles, sometimes adults,too, doing a lot of aerial acrobatics and playing….tumbling, locking talons and doing rolling,somersaults, passing sticks back and forth, but I’ve never see any hawks or falcons playing. The blood on the older hawk, reminds me of a painting I did of a sharps-shiinned hawk sitting on a pine branch. It was snowing, there was some build up on the branch. The hawk was a juvenile…its eyes hadn’t darkened to red yet…one foot, like these guys’, was tucked up, the bird was puffed up for warmth. I called it “Happiness is a Full Tank”. Everyone liked… it until I pointed out the traces of “red evidence” on the beak and the feet….then he wasn’t beautiful anymore. His pose was very similar to your second shot. BY THE WAY, I NOTICE THAT YOU BLUR YOUR BACKGROUNDS, RON…SHAME ON YOU!!!

    • Patty, You notice WRONG. I have never blurred a background. Not once. Ever!

      The bokeh in the background is entirely the result of my 500mm lens and the aperture I chose.

  • Dick Harlow

    Absolutely Regal!!
    Beautiful, gorgeous, fantastic, and whatever other adjective one can think of to describe the second shot!!
    Right time, Right place.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Love the regal pose, the variety of browns, from the rich chocolates on the head and body to the warm sienna on the breast…the bloody feathers and the raised foot tell the story of a successful hunt. Also love the shot of those bright yellow feet with their lethal shiny black claws gripping the post in the first shot…great resource for this greedy wildlife painter. Thanks, again (can’t wait to see what you come back with)…have a good trip.