As I write this, I am at my hotel in Tehachapi, preparing to head out for the day to continue surveying for Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). At this point in the survey most of the nesting locations for this species have been established in the survey area. For some Swainson’s Hawk pairs, like the bird seen here, we know they are nesting in the area, but the nest itself is in an area on private property where we can’t access. The bird in the photograph is the female of the pair, as evidenced by the copulation event I observed shortly before taking the photo. It is easily separated visually from the male, who is somewhere between an intermediate and dark morph in plumage, and is obviously smaller than the female when observed together.
Swainson’s Hawks are long distance migrants, breeding in western prairies and dry grasslands, and wintering in South America. The species is listed as threatened by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.