~ 2017 ~

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The year is 2017. This is the first year I re-discovered and followed a family of Swainson’s hawks in our neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta. These encounters sparked a years long interest in these amazing birds of prey. This is their story (and mine) through my lens.

Note: The accounts herein were written in 2023 – the photos, notes and email messages from the time helped me write the story.

NOTE: This is not a scientific journal. However, I am fully aware that once the birds have left the nest, they aren’t “babies” anymore. By the time we see them out and about, they would more accurately be called fledglings and juveniles. I will use baby/babies/young ones/littles/juveniles interchangeably when referring to the offspring of Mama and Papa hawks.

AUGUST 31, 2017
Baby with their dinner
Baby with their dinner
in the middle of the road

Have you ever been in your house and all of a sudden you hear something outside that you’ve never heard before… something… you think it’s an animal of some kind, making a very loud screeching noise… you run outside and can’t believe your eyes…

This is the story of our first close encounter with a family of Swainson’s Hawks in Calgary, Alberta.

What is going on? I ran outside with the little point and shoot camera. There is a juvenile Swainson’s hawk on the road in the middle of our cul de sac, just meters from our front door. This not-so-small bird of prey is eating… in the middle of the road. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it at first either.

Baby hawk on a fence
Baby hawk on a fence
Baby hawk eating on a shed
Baby hawk eating on a shed

But there’s a lot of crying or calling just across from us – it’s another juvenile sitting on a fence. This one is crying almost constantly while the one eating cries out a little between bites. This whole dining adventure seems to go on forever and I’m not sure what I’m more surprised about: the fact that it took 30 minutes for this bird to eat its dinner; or the fact that not a single vehicle came around while it was eating.

Wow, what a cool thing to see. Now that it’s over, I can carry on with my day… oh, wait…

Just an hour after the first encounter started, there was another baby having their dinner in a slightly better location on the roof of a garden shed in a neighbour’s backyard.

But that’s not all…

An hour later, one of the juveniles was on a neighbour’s fence talking away. I took a couple of videos with my iPhone 6s. This is probably the closest I will ever get to these raptors (and the closest I should ever want to be).

What an awesome day!


It’s just been a couple of days since our first encounter with the hawks. And now one of the juveniles is in a neighbour’s tree and won’t stop talking/crying.

In the video (just a head’s up, not the best quality and lots of camera zoom noise and wind) you can see (and hear) baby hawk. You can also definitely hear Mama hawk (this is 2023 me telling you this because 2017 me had no idea who Mama was).

Baby hawk in the grass
Baby hawk in the grass
Baby at the playground
Baby at the playground

Things seem to be a little calmer around here. We can go outside and walk in the alley without being yelled at by any hawks.

The young ones are out exploring their territory which includes the local playground and green space.

Papa hawk is keeping an eye on us. It’s important to note that in 2017, I’ve not yet learned who Papa and Mama really are – not only who is who but the roles they play.

Papa hawk on a pole
Papa hawk on a pole

A NOTE FROM MY 2023 FUTURE SELF: In case I don’t mention it in later episodes of “When the Hawks Came to Town”, Swainson’s Hawks are also known as Grasshopper Hawks due to their diet of, yes, grasshoppers.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2017
Baby hawk on a rooftop
Baby hawk on a rooftop
Baby hawk on a pole
Baby hawk on a pole

I’m noticing the babies more. They kind of blend in to their environment, especially if they’re not talking. You really have to look for them now – they might be on rooftops, in the grass or on power poles.

These are some of the last photos I took of the hawks in 2017.

Will I see them again next year?

A painting of a Swainson's Hawk
A painting of a young Swainson’s

To share just how much these raptors garnered my attention this year, I started a painting of one of the littles in about mid-September. I finally finished it in early November. It now has a permanent home on our garden shed.

2017 until next year…?
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