Swainson’s hawk banded at Hawk Ridge

This Swainson’s hawk, a bird of the western prairies, was banded at Hawk Ridge in Duluth today, marking only the second time in the history of Hawk Ridge that a Swainson’s has been banded here. (Sam Cook photo)

A Swainson’s hawk, an uncommon visitor to Hawk Ridge, was caught and banded at the birding site in East Duluth this afternoon. This is just the second time in the 40-year history of Hawk Ridge that a Swainson’s has been banded here. It’s just the third Swainson’s hawk banded in the Twin Ports. One was banded during the spring migration but not at Hawk Ridge.

Swainson’s hawks are birds of the prairie. They nest there and winter far south in South America, said Duluth birder Laura Erickson. They feed mostly on grasshoppers. In South America, grasshoppers often are sprayed with pesticides, Erickson said, and wintering Swainson’s hawks die from the spray or from eating grasshoppers that have been sprayed.

Andrew Longtin of Corcoran, Minn., who helps with counting chores at Hawk Ridge, “adopted” the Swainson’s hawk before it was released. Hawk Ridge allows people to adopt birds for a donation. Many hawks can be adopted for $20 or $30. I asked Longtin how much it cost to adopt the Swainson’s.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “Probably $200.”

Longtin, a long-time supporter of Hawk Ridge, has adopted 107 hawks at the bird observatory, including today’s Swainson’s. Longtin was permitted to release the hawk, which was an immature and so-called “dark morph,” meaning it had darker coloration than other Swainson’s hawks.

After Longtin released the hawk, it rose in the sky and circled several times on its broad wings before continuing south.

Here’s a photo of the bird in the air, plus a photo of Longtin before he released it:

The Swainson’s hawk in the air after its release. (Sam Cook photo)

Andrew Longtin admires the Swainson’s hawk banded Saturday at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth before releasing it. (Sam Cook photo)

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