Swainson's Hawk - Image courtesy of Dick Daniels
Swainson's Hawk - Image courtesy of Wikimedia/Dick Daniels

By Russ Koppendrayer

We're off to a very nice start to the 2021 year list as far as number of species goes. Of the hardy species that overwinter in Cowlitz County in small numbers while most of their compatriots head farther south, we have found more than is typical. 

Only one bird has been found so far this year that would be considered a rarity. That would be the juvenile Swainson's Hawk that was seen for three days in the Woodland Bottoms. A species that nests in the grasslands and sagebrush habitats of interior North America, they migrate south for the winter. A few stop as close as Mexico, but the majority spend their time in Argentina and typically begin to return to areas east of the Cascades in April. While not the first record of Swainson's Hawk in western Washington in winter, it was indeed a very surprising find.

As was our individual, I believe all previous winter visitors were birds that hatched the previous spring and apparently have a flaw in their migration instinct. A few birders enjoyed seeing it at any rate and hopefully it survives the winter. As it was after the snow and cold that it was found it may well stand a chance.   

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