This bird is native to North America and although a traditional bird in North American falconry, it isn't used as often as many other species.
This hawk is also highly variable in colorations. Commonly seen with a reddish breast directly under the throat and a light lower chest with barring. The head, back, and upper wings are typically dark brown with an amount of speckles. It is very similar in appearance and size to a Red-Tail, and sometimes hybridizes in the wild. The Swainson's tends to be more grey above and slate-grey on the tail with barring having the tail lighter at the base. This can be a way to try to distinguish between the Red-Tail Hawk and the Swainson's. The three outer primaries with the inner web cut out or notched near the tip.
A large hawk, this is smaller than the Red-Tail or Red-Shouldered Hawk.
Typical quarry caught are cottontail rabbits and medium birds. In the wild this bird takes small mammals and birds or reptiles but primarily will eat insects with mammals as their secondary food source. In late summer it tends to eat a lot of grasshoppers when they are plentiful. Many have described the flight style as sluggish or unsuspicious as it will soar circling until it locates the prey it wants. It will even hunt insects on foot.
In the past, the Swainson's Hawk was called the "American Continental Falcon".
Nesting on cliffs, they tend to prefer areas with no trees showing a strong flight and soar well.
The Swainson's Hawk is believed to be slightly declining, although may be stable at this point. It has been placed on watch lists and removed before as it has turned out to be more abundant than previously thought. Although the population is unknown, some sources estimate that Veracruz, Mexico has had upwards of 845,000 pass through on their migratory route.
Most Swainson's Hawks winter within their breeding range, similar to Broad-Winged Hawks in this regard.