What Eats Hawks? A List of Hawk Predators

Hawk on a branch in forest

The question of what eats hawks might surprise some, considering hawks are known as fierce predators in the wild. Yet, even these skilled hunters have their own set of predators to watch out for.

In this article, we’ll explore the risks hawks face every day from various predators. So, if you’re curious to find out who dares to prey on these powerful birds of prey, keep reading.

What Animals Eats Hawks?

Two hawks fighting over food

While hawks are apex predators, they can still fall prey to larger birds such as eagles, owls, and even other larger hawks, especially when they’re competing for resources. On the ground, animals like foxes, wolves, raccoons, coyotes, and big snakes might also go after hawks or their nests.

Bigger raptors, like owls and eagles, may see hawks as competitors for things like prey and nesting spots.

When there’s a dispute over these resources or food is scarce, these birds may attack and eat hawks to make sure they get what they need.

Meanwhile, animals like foxes, wolves, raccoons, coyotes, and big snakes can also pose a danger to hawks and their nests.

These ground-based predators are opportunistic hunters and may target hawks when they’re vulnerable, such as during nesting periods or when they’re injured.

These sneaky hunters may go after hawk nests to steal eggs or grab young chicks. With their agility and sharp senses, they can get into nests and catch hawks when they’re not expecting it.

The Main Predators of Hawks

Fox eating a dead hawk

While hawks sit near the top of the food chain, they’re not untouchable. Several animals serve as hawks’ primary predators, making life in the wild a constant battle for survival.

Let’s dive into who these main predators are and see what challenges they pose for hawks.

1. Foxes

Foxes can be a threat to hawks, especially when it comes to their eggs and young hawks.

These sly mammals take advantage of some hawks’ habit of nesting on the ground, sneaking into nests to eat eggs or attack fledglings that aren’t strong enough to fly or defend themselves yet.

With their agile nature and keen sense of smell, foxes can find hawk nests hidden in bushes or on low branches. This usually happens at night or when the adult hawks are out hunting.

However, such incidents are relatively rare as hawks are really good at keeping an eye on their nests and picking safe spots to raise their young.

2. Wolves

Wolves usually hunt big animals like deer, but sometimes, they might eat hawks. This doesn’t happen a lot, though. If a wolf finds a hawk that can’t fly because it’s hurt or already dead, it might take the chance to eat it.

Since wolves can’t catch birds in mid-flight, they rely on these unusual opportunities to eat hawks.

This just shows how wolves can make do with what they find, eating different things when they need to. This flexibility helps them survive in various habitats.

3. Eagles

Eagles, like the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle, are some of the few big birds that can actually go after hawks.

These eagles are pretty strong and sit high up in the avian food chain, so they can pick on hawks if the opportunity arises.

Eagles and hawks share similar habitats, which can lead to competition for food and territory.

This rivalry sometimes results in eagles attacking hawks, especially if they are young, injured, or otherwise vulnerable. And because eagles are bigger and stronger, they usually have the upper hand.

But eagles don’t usually go out of their way to hunt hawks. They prefer to catch fish, small animals, and other birds. It’s more like eagles and hawks get into it over territory or if an eagle spots an easy chance.

4. Snakes

While it’s more common to hear about hawks preying on snakes, the opposite can happen under certain circumstances.

Snakes, particularly large or venomous ones, can pose a threat to hawks, especially when it comes to their nests.

This usually happens in nests that are closer to the ground or in low-lying areas, which makes them accessible to these reptiles.

Rattlesnakes are the ones hawks really have to watch out for because of their venom. But even without venom, snakes like corn snakes and kingsnakes are skilled at climbing trees and eating eggs or baby birds.

Adult hawks are tough and can usually keep these snakes away, but their nests are a different story. If they’re not careful about where they build their nest or if they leave it unguarded, these snakes can slip in.

5. Falcons

Falcons, especially Peregrine Falcons, which are known as one of the world’s fastest birds, can also feed on smaller hawks like Sharp-shinned Hawks.

These falcons are skilled hunters who can catch their prey mid-flight using their incredible speed and agility. While they usually hunt birds like pigeons and ducks, they can and do target smaller hawks if given the chance.

Sharp-shinned Hawks, being smaller and less powerful than Peregrine Falcons, can become prey if they’re caught off guard or if they venture into the falcon’s territory.

This dynamic between falcons and hawks highlights the complex relationships within bird-of-prey communities, where size, speed, and agility can determine who eats and who gets eaten.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious to see it in action, check out this video of a Peregrine Falcon swiftly taking down a Red-tailed Hawk in mid-air:

Peregrine Falcon Kills Red Tailed Hawk

Fun Fact: The Peregrine Falcon is the world’s fastest bird, capable of diving at speeds of up to 240 miles per hour.

This incredible speed is not just useful for catching their usual prey but also makes them a threat to smaller hawks in mid-air confrontations.

6. Coyotes

Coyotes are pretty clever and will eat just about anything they can catch, including hawks, if they get the chance. Most of the time, coyotes stick to hunting animals on the ground, like rabbits or rodents.

But if a hawk is hurt or can’t fly for some reason, a coyote might take advantage of that and make it a meal. Coyotes are versatile predators that can adjust their diet based on what’s available in their environment.

So, although it’s not very common for them to go after hawks, they definitely won’t say no to a hawk if it’s easy to catch, especially if it’s a young one or stuck on the ground.

7. Raccoons

Although adult hawks are strong predators who can easily deal with raccoon attacks, their nests can be vulnerable.

With their excellent climbing skills and nocturnal habits, raccoons can sneak into hawk nests under the cover of darkness to eat eggs or young hawks.

Raccoons are all about grabbing whatever food they can find, and they’re really good at it. They might not go after hawks all the time, but if they come across an unguarded hawk nest, they’ll definitely take the chance.

I once saw just how sneaky raccoons can be when one raided a hawk nest right in my backyard.

I had set up a camera to watch the hawk chicks grow up, but what I got was footage of a raccoon climbing up to the nest at night, preying on the helpless chicks.

This just shows how smart raccoons are at getting their meals and how even strong birds like hawks have to watch out for them, especially at night when raccoons are out and about.

8. Large Owls

Large owls, such as Great Horned Owls and Snowy Owls, are common species known to prey on smaller hawks. These nocturnal hunters use their stealth and power to prey on various birds, including the smaller hawks. 

Their silent flight and surprise attack tactics make them formidable predators in the dark.

Great Horned Owls, with their powerful talons and keen night vision, can easily overpower a smaller hawk, often preying on them during the night when hawks are less active and more vulnerable.

Snowy Owls, on the other hand, are more adapted to cold habitats but will also prey on smaller hawks if given a chance, especially during twilight hunting expeditions or in areas where their territories overlap.

Fun Fact: The Great Horned Owl doesn’t build its own nest. Instead, it takes over the nests of other birds, including hawks. This shows not only their dominance over other birds of prey but also their resourcefulness.

9. Larger hawks

In the world of birds of prey, being bigger can mean you’re the boss, and that’s definitely true for hawks. The larger hawks often end up preying on their smaller counterparts.

Larger hawk species, such as Red-tailed Hawks, are at the top of the food chain among birds of prey.

They’ve got sharp eyesight and strong talons, which makes them efficient hunters capable of catching all sorts of prey, from rodents to smaller birds, including other hawks.

This behavior is not just about food; it’s also about territory. Larger hawks are territorial creatures and may attack smaller hawks to protect their hunting grounds or nesting areas.

This helps make sure they have enough resources to survive and raise their young.

How Do Hawks Protect Themselves?

Hawk fighting with common buzzard

Hawks have several strategies to protect themselves from predators and threats. These birds of prey are not just skilled hunters; they’re also experts at staying safe.

Physical Adaptations

Hawks are equipped with sharp talons and beaks, which they use for both hunting and defense. These physical tools allow them to fend off attackers effectively.

Another crucial adaptation is their exceptional vision, which enables them to recognize possible threats at a distance and avoid conflicts before they even get too close.

Moreover, most hawk species have feathers that help them blend into their surroundings, making it hard for predators to spot them when they’re resting or nesting.

Masterful Flying

One of the hawk’s primary defenses is its ability to fly at incredibly high altitudes. This skill not only helps them spot prey from above but also keeps them out of reach from many ground-based predators.

Hawks can soar, dive, and maneuver through the air with ease. If a predator is chasing them, hawks can often outfly them and use their agility to escape.

Choosing Safe Spaces

When it comes to setting up homes, hawks are incredibly selective. They prefer nesting sites that are hard for predators to access, such as high up in tall trees or cliff faces.

This natural fortress safeguards their young from many threats. Hawks also steer clear of areas known to be frequented by predators, opting for territories where they can have the upper hand.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sparrow hawk in a autumn setting

What Animals Are Capable of Killing a Hawk?

Some animals that can take down hawks include bigger birds like eagles and other large hawks. At night, big owls might also hunt hawks. On the ground, foxes and raccoons can be a threat, especially to younger or hurt hawks.

Even big snakes can kill hawks if they get the chance. These predators take advantage of hawks’ vulnerabilities, such as when they are nesting or in situations where the hawks cannot escape quickly.

Do Coyotes Eat Hawks?

Yes, coyotes will eat hawks if they can catch them. Coyotes aren’t picky eaters and will munch on lots of different animals, including hawks. They mostly go after hawks that are hurt, sick, or too young to fly well.

So, while hawks aren’t their main food source, coyotes won’t pass up the chance if they find a hawk that’s easy to catch.

Do Wolves Eat Hawks?

Wolves might eat hawks, but they don’t hunt them on purpose. If they come across a hawk that’s already dead or can’t fly because it’s hurt, they might decide to eat it.

However, seeing a wolf catch a hawk flying around is not something that happens often.

So, which of the hawk predators listed above surprised you the most? Drop your thoughts and any questions you may have in the comment section below.

Leave a Comment

You may also like