Swainson's Hawk
(Buteo swainsoni)


Picture of bird
© David Mitchell - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Swainson's Hawk breeds primarily in the grasslands of the Prairie provinces, with small, scattered populations in the western mountain valleys. It suffered dramatic population declines throughout its range in the late 1800s and early 1900s; the present population is well below historical levels (Bechard et al. 2010). It is well monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey, which suggests little change in the population since 1970. The Swainson's Hawk has one of the longest annual migrations of any raptor, and management concerns centre on its wintering grounds in southern South America (Bechard et al. 2010). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 500,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The Swainson's Hawk feeds on insects during migration and winter, making it susceptible to pesticide poisoning; 6000 Swainson's Hawks were poisoned by the insecticides monocrotophos and dimethoate in 1995 and 1996 in Argentina (Bechard et al. 2010). Monocrotophos use has since been decreased significantly, but dimethoate is still in wide use in Argentina (Bechard et al. 2010). Concerns in Canada include the expansion of urban areas beyond levels tolerated by Swainson's Hawks, and the availability of nest trees in grassland habitats (Bechard et al. 2010). Tree belts associated with farmsteads may provide critical breeding sites because the relatively late migratory behaviour of Swainson's Hawk means that other suitable habitats may already be occupied by raptors that arrive earlier on the nesting grounds (Inselman et al. 2015).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation
Northwestern Interior ForestNorthwestern Interior Forest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation & Stewardship