Do hawks eat birds? How does a hawk kill a bird?

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Do hawks eat birds? Do they eat them alive?

Yes, hawks eat birds. Yes, they are also known to eat them alive by carrying it to their nest or sometimes on the spot.

Hawks are the birds of prey that not only feeds on small mammals, rodents, lizards, and snakes, but also on other small and mid-sized birds species that can be seen in their surroundings.

Commonly known hawks that feed on birds are the sharp-shinned hawk, the Cooper’s hawk, the American kestrel, the snake hawk, the sea hawk, the Deterring Hawks, the red-tailed hawks, as well as other similar species of hawks in other parts of the world.

Many people will often find the hawks feeding on the feeder birds in their backyards. Some of the feeder birds eaten by the hawks include those of the sparrows, dark-eyed junco, American Robin, quail, house finch, doves, pigeons, and even crows and ravens.

Almost all of the species of hawks are known to feed on birds that includes more than 500 species of birds.

The hawks will normally hunt small-sized to medium-sized birds like those of the most feeder birds that feast on spilled seeds. They do likely prefer hunting on their favorite backyard species.

The larger and experienced hawks are super-fast hunters that can grab a flying bird during their agile flight very easily.


They are normally seen visiting the yards and gardens to hunt feeders, and so can be seen flying around the buildings, and trees to catch small, panicked birds.

So, it can be concluded that many small birds that include the finches, sparrows, and songbirds are prey for the larger birds of prey that is the hawks.

Now, it depends on the type of hawk, its experience, and maturity that allows them to hunt small birds either on the ground or catch them vigorously during the mid-flight.

Most incredibly the well-known bird hunters like the Sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks are specialists at hunting small birds and are also often seen to catch one while diving or after an aerial chase.

How does a hawk kill a bird?

Hawks are known to kill its prey with its talons. With its one grab, the bird dies as the talons are sharp enough to dig into the body of the bird.

Talons are the claws of a bird of prey like hawks and these are its primary hunting tool. The talons are very important and without them, most birds of prey would not be able to catch their food. Some birds also use claws for defensive purposes as well.

The talons are incredibly sharp and are connected to four muscular digits, and these are also often used for carrying prey.

The hawks unlike the falcons use its talons as its primary hunting tool, while the beaks are the falcon’s primary hunting tool.

The hawk acts like a falcon in some cases when it uses its talons to catch the prey but kills the small animal with its beak instead of its talons.

If the hawk is going to hunt a mid-sized prey like the pigeon, or crow, or even a raven then it’s rare that the bird will die after grabbing with the talons alone.

So, in such cases they can use both their sharp beaks and talons to grab and ripp the bird to death.

All hawks are known to have extremely sharp visions. They can accurately and clearly view their prey from a perch or from the air high above while on a flight.

These majestic birds are designed to spot prey from high above, and then swoop down fast to attack and vigorously catch it.

Their reflexes are so active and they attack super-fast and grab their prey before it realizes what has happened.

The hawk during its preferred hunting time, that is just before nightfall when daylight lessens, will usually be there in your yard searching for a bird to hunt.

It is also to be noted that not all hawks are violent predators, some are gentle and quiet hunters too.

During the time it will attack its prey, it will flap its wings rapidly, and then use that momentum to glide smoothly and gracefully through the air while coming downward at a very high speed.

Soon, during this motion, it will grab the bird with its talons equipped fists and will carry it away to its nest to feast on it.

What kind of birds do hawks eat?

Hawks eat a wide variety of birds. It is known that there are more than 200 species of hawks across the world, and almost 99% of them prefer to feed on birds.

Out of these 200 species of hawks, it has been known that there are at least 100 species of hawks that are exclusive bird feeders.

Almost all hawks feed on birds, and there are more than at least 500 different varieties of mid-sized to small-sized birds that are being fed upon by the hawks.

Small-sized Hawks like the Sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, etc. are known to feed on small-sized birds like sparrows, songbirds, quail, finches, owls, baby birds, etc.

Larger-sized Hawks like the Cooper’s hawk, Red-tailed hawk, etc. not only feed on small-sized birds but are also known to feed on mid-sized birds like Tinamou, Northern Screamer, pigeons, dove, crows, ravens, hens, ducks, American wigeon, etc.

Those that feed on birds like hens, crows, and ravens can sometimes get unsuccessful during their kills. Birds like crows, ravens, and hens are strength in numbers and are often large and smart, and can easily defeat a hawk.

But in the majority of the cases, the large-sized hawks are well-seen in attacking and successfully killing these medium-sized birds.

Over 95% of the diet of the Sharp-shinned Hawk is small birds, but only about 50% of the diet of a Cooper’s Hawk is small to medium-sized birds, such as the American Robin and Mourning Dove.

Hawks are more often seen killing the birds as well as their chicks during nesting season.

From birds to insects and fish to mammals, lizards, and frogs, the birds of prey have a highly varied diet.

Even when they prey on backyard birds, they are still a fascinating and valuable part of the ecological food chain.

How many birds does a hawk eat per day?

A hawk can eat 12% to 15% of its body-weight per day. This means that a 530 grams weight adult Cooper’s Hawk can feed on at least 63 grams of bird meat per day or as many as a few small-sized birds that weigh 63 grams in total.

The largest hawk like that of an adult Ferruginous hawk can weigh around 1.5 kg and so it can feed around 180 grams of bird meat each day.

So, in such a case if you see, an adult Ferruginous hawk can easily feed and stay for two days by hunting a single 360-400 gram weight adult rock pigeon, or else, it may need to feed upon 8 of the small-sized house sparrows with each weighing 24-40 grams per day.

On the other case, the small-sized hawks like the Cooper Hawk can feed for one and a half-day by hunting an adult Quail weighing at least 90 grams.

So, as you can see, the feeding behaviour and how many birds a hawk can feed per day depends on the weight of the hawk.

In general, if you want to know how much quantity of a bird it can eat per day, then you can calculate it by taking 12% of the weight of a hawk.

The larger the hawk the more food it can eat per day. And as a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, just like the growing baby hawks, the more food it needs relative to its weight.

What time of the day do hawks hunt?

Hawks prefer hunting during the dusk and dawn time of the day. They do like to hunt the most just before the nightfall when daylight lessens.

Hawks are diurnal creatures and are known to only hunt during the day time. Many may think them as nocturnal because they are seen hunting at the dusk, but the fact is that they are strictly diurnal.

They don’t see in the dark and so almost avoid hunting at night time. But, they may feed on their prey at night that they have had hunted during the daytime.

The reason why these are mainly daytime birds is their extra-sharp vision that works only when there is light. Hawks have incredibly precise eyesight, with as much as 8 times sharper vision than humans.

Many of their prey are nocturnal birds that come out when it’s going to be dark. So, they are also seen hunting at dusk when these nocturnal creatures starts to come out of their nests.

Moreover, the lesser light conditions at the dusk time make it almost easier for the hawk to make their movements less detectable in the setting sunlight conditions, making it easier for them to hunt their prey.

In general, Owls hunt at night, and Hawks and Eagles hunt during the day. Hawks hunt early morning or sunset time, and for the rest of the day they can either sit on exposed perches or circle and glide in the air.

This is hard to believe but we found a nest with a pair of hawks and owls in it. The hawks watched the owl’s babies at night, and the owls watched the hawk’s babies during the day. But I do not think this is a normal animal behaviour and so is indeed a very rare sight.

~ Bob Malcomb

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