Do hawks eat snakes?
Yes, hawks can eat snakes, but not all types of hawks eat snakes. They can not only eat rodents, lizards, rabbits, and other small mammals, but they can also feed on snakes.
Those that eat snakes do better know how to attack a snake and feed on them by escaping the snakebite and venoms.
Red-tailed Hawks are the most well-known snake eaters and they don’t necessarily exclude the venomous species as menu choices.
The Cooper’s hawk is another popular species of North America that vigorously feeds on snakes either venomous or non-venomous.
Others like the laughing falcon, also called the snake hawk is also one of the most popular snake eaters. They are the birds of prey which feeds almost exclusively on snakes.
Another popular one is from India, and it is called the the Osprey or the Sea hawk or Indian fish eagle. They mainly feed on aquatic animals such as fish, turtles and many sea snakes.
There are more than 200 species of hawks across the world, and it has been estimated that around 30 to 50 species of hawks feed on snakes and about 10 of them are exclusive snake eaters.
Eating snakes doesn’t mean that they can attack and eat snakes like the adult reticulated python or anaconda or other large snake species.
They are seen carrying a snake in flight and so often you can see them flying with the snake high over your head.
They will only feed on mid-sized to small-sized lightweight snakes that they can easily grab and fly. Such species include the bullsnakes, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, other small tree snakes species, etc.
How do hawks eat snakes? How do hawks kill snakes without getting bitten?
All hawks are known to have extremely sharp visions. They have 5 to 6 times better vision than humans that let them see with utmost accuracy.
Their eyes are forward-facing, which gives them an excellent binocular vision. 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.
Now to attack and grab their prey all hawks use their talons (claws) to attack their prey like the snakes while coming downward at a very high-speed. You can compare this to some killing blows coming towards a snake.
Talons are the claws of a bird of prey like hawks and these are its primary hunting tool. The talons are very important; 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.
Small-sized ones can be killed with a sudden attack using the talons. Other, snakes that don’t die so easily will be soon suffocated to death when grabbed in the hawk’s forceful fists.
Others that don’t die so easily are attacked by the strong beaks of the bird. Hawk’s beaks are strong and hooked. The beak is used by them to kill the snake by biting at the base of the neck.
Hawks are also known to attack directly on the neck of the snake and breaking the neck off using their beaks. Such attacks of breaking the neck are mostly seen if the snake is venomous.
The hawks are smart killers and they do know how to kill snakes without getting bitten and so they directly attack the neck of those venomous ones and break them off. Soon the snake dies.
After the kill, they can either carry the snake to the nest to feed their young, or can take it to a safe place to have a feast on, or can even eat on the spot.
Some are also known to directly grabbing and eating the snake very vigorously. The meat is ripped off the carcass during feeding.
But, they don’t take such risks if they have determined that it’s a venomous snake, or they themselves can be bitten to death.
Can hawks eat venomous snakes? Are venomous snakes dangerous for hawks?
Yes, mature and adult hawks better know how to attack venomous snakes and eat them. They do gradually attack the small-sized to mid-sized snakes that can be both venomous or non-venomous.
If they have determined that the snake is venomous, then they will prepare themselves by first grabbing the snake with its talons, and then it will directly bite and break off the neck of the snake using its sharp beak.
Some are often seen to be on the safe side by the breaking and tearing off the neck apart from the snake’s carcass and then feeding on it. This helps them to get rid of the snake’s bite.
Inexperienced and immature hawks are seen to fail most often when they do try to attack any venomous snakes. And, in many cases, it has been seen that the predator becomes the prey itself.
Just, for instance, it has been seen that when young hawks try to attack cottonmouths and rattlesnakes that they have apparently targeted as prey, then the failure and the death rate of the young hawks are probably more common due to venomous snake bite.
But, in the case of the experienced, mature, and adult hawks it has been seen that they are more successful in killing the venomous snakes.
So, Are venomous snakes dangerous for hawks? Yes, venomous snakes can be dangerous to hawks if they don’t make the attack carefully, and suddenly, or else the snake may bite them leading to their death.
It is not yet known if the hawks are immune to snake venom due to a lack of extensive research in this field. So, better we conclude that venomous snakes can be dangerous to the hawks.
In the case of snakes eating another snake, it is known that some of the many species like kingsnakes have a protein in their blood that makes them immune to the viper’s venoms, and it appears the vipers know this and avoids them.
Mature hawks do not fear venomous snakes. They think of them as their tasty meal and attack them very vigorously. Some may fear, but that’s not the predator’s rule.
However, they do fear the large-sized snakes like the anacondas as they can’t kill or feed them. And, better they do know that large-sized snakes can kill them so they avoid them.
Just, for example, Red-tailed hawks are known to consume at least 35 species of snakes, including many venomous ones like the rattlesnakes, and they are the most well-known snake predators.
What does it mean when you see a hawk with a snake?
When we see a hawk with a snake, then it’s obvious that they aren’t there to communicate with each other or share some friendly behaviours. But, it’s likely that the hawk is there to attack, kill, and of course, eat the snake.
In case of a snake and hawk relationship, if we see, then the hawk is the predator and the snake is the prey.
Sometimes it has been also seen that hawk becomes the prey when conflicting with a venomous snake. But, that’s not always the rule!
If we see a hawk with a snake then it’s probable that the hawk has killed it and is feeding on it, or maybe it is going to soon kill it after playing a bit with it, or it can be so that the hawk has already killed the snake and is now carrying it away to its nest to feast on it.
In some rare instances, it can also be that the snake has grabbed the hawk and has bitten it to death and is now slowly swallowing the hawk. Here, the predator hawk has become the prey.
According to astrology there are some strict superstitious beliefs as well.
Many astrologers say that if you ever see a hawk with a snake, then the hawk is a reminder for you to free yourself from outdated and negative thoughts and rise high to flourish in life with flying colors.
In simple words, it’s meant that if you ever see a hawk carrying a snake, you must pay attention to your immediate events and save some time to reflect and consider things.
On hearing the call or cry of a hawk, awaken your intuitive ability to understand spiritual messages coming to you.~ Astrologer’s Sayings
What kind of snakes do hawks eat?
Hawks can eat both venomous and non-venomous snakes that are small-sized to mid-sized ones. However, they don’t eat large-sized snakes like the anacondas and pythons.
Now, what type of snakes they do feed upon naturally varies from species to species, and also the feeding type is strictly dependent based on their ecosystem.
Hawks like the Red-tailed hawks that were studied in their natural ecosystem like to eat rattlesnakes, garter snakes, black rat snakes, cottonmouths, coral snakes, baby cobras, baby anacondas, baby pythons, and many other snake species including the sea snakes.
Snakes, especially the non-venomous species, are not feared at all by the hawks. They attack them with ease and aggressiveness and feast upon them with flavours.
It is also very interesting to note that the hawks are even seen to swallow the snakes whole along with their scales, fangs, and all other parts so easily. Such instances are mostly seen while feeding on the non-venomous snakes.
Many hawks are known to be much more likely to attack when they disturb the snakes walking through grass, as they do not fly as much as other bird species.
Naturally, the main relation between hawks and snakes is a food relation, which is the predator-prey relationship.