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