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Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) | by neil.fisher
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Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

Meet Joan, a Swainson’s hawk who was admitted to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) Veterinary Medical Centre with head trauma and was later diagnosed with a lateral skull fracture. The Wild and Exotic Animal Medicine Society (WEAMS) is a non-profit organization operated by student volunteers at the WCVM and has been caring for Joan since August 21, 20015. Her rehabilitation is ongoing and pending a clean bill of health she will be released this spring.


The Swainson’s hawk is common sight across the Great Plains and can be found in open ranging environments such as prairies and deserts. During the winter months, they fly south for Argentine wintering grounds. It’s one of the farthest migrations of any North American raptor and they often travel in huge flocks of hundreds or thousands - the flocks are called kettles.


Interestingly when not providing for young, the Swainson’s hawk exclusively prey upon flighted insects, such as moths, grasshoppers and dragonflies - typically catching prey while in flight. During breeding season adults are very opportunistic, eating a wide variety of small mammals and even other birds. In an area close to Alberta, a significant percentage of the Swainson’s hawk’s diet consisted of burrowing owls.


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Taken on December 4, 2015