The Swainson’s Hawk in Argentina: Possibilities for Success in Migratory Bird Conservation [A Thesis] (PDF)

A thesis on the Swainson’s hawk. Precursed by a much shorter, more general paper called Migratory Birds and the Legislative Landscape of the United States.


In 1994, a U.S. Forest Service biologist, noting a marked decline in the Swainson’s hawk population in the western United States, decided to investigate further, and used radio transmitters to track two birds to their non-breeding habitat. The route led to Argentina, where fields were found littered with dead hawks. This was eventually tied to the grasshopper pesticide monocrotophos. The following year resulted in an even more dramatic episode of deaths, with as many as 20,000 dead hawks. A response was quickly initiated, resulting from the interplay between numerous actors from NGOs, academic institutions, government agencies in three countries (Argentina, Canada, and the United States), and industry. In a remarkable turnaround, the actions of these parties and the agreements reached resulted in only 24 hawks dying the following year, in 1996. This thesis addresses the question of why this case was successful. It highlights three aspects that were significant in the ability of the actors to cooperate and achieve a goal: (1) knowledge, and how that knowledge was utilized by actors in directing the path of action; (2) NGOs, and the unique pressure and support afforded by their participation; and (3) contextual factors of how the issue was framed and the domestic structures of the political and social forum in which it was addressed.