What do hawks eat?

flying hawk

Pretty much everyone knows that hawks are carnivores, but if you’ve ever watched one hovering above a field and then diving down, you might have wondered “what do hawks eat?”

Hawks prey on a wide variety of smaller animals, including rodents, birds, and even turtles and insects. They hunt voles, squirrels, rabbits, mice, hares, rats, chipmunks, and anything else small and squeaky. They prey on rodents a lot, and are often to be seen hunting near fields, where these tend to be abundant.

What Rodents do Hawks eat?

hawks and mice

Hawks are most commonly thought of as being rodent predators. They are fierce hunters of almost anything small, so you may have sometimes seen them diving on rabbits or voles.

If you have pet rodents and there are hawks in the area, you should never leave them outside without a good, hawk-proof enclosure.

There aren’t many small rodents that hawks don’t eat. For example, they will hunt voles, squirrels, rabbits, mice, hares, rats, chipmunks, and anything else small and squeaky.

They prey on rodents a lot, and are often to be seen hunting near fields, where these tend to be abundant.

Hawks can be good pest control and help to keep rodent numbers down.

They won’t attack larger mammals such as cats or dogs unless they are extremely desperate, but few rodents are safe from them, and many are not quick enough to dive for cover when the bird drops on them.

What kinds of Birds do Hawks eat?

birds and hawks

It might surprise you a little more to learn that hawks prey on other birds, but they regularly do. This makes them unpopular in some gardens, as they frighten off and kill songbirds. Hawks are very nimble fliers, and have little difficulty catching even the fastest small birds.

Which birds they prey on will depend a bit on the hawk, but they can take robins, jays, doves, sparrows, quails, pigeons, woodpeckers, starlings, and blackbirds. Larger hawks tend to go for bigger birds, and some can even kill pheasants or ducks.

Some hawks specialize in eating songbirds and will go after almost no other prey. Others go for bigger birds, and can tackle surprising sizes with amazing capability.

If you want to protect your garden birds from hawks, you will have a challenging fight – but you can deter hawks in a few ways, such as minimizing other food sources that will attract them (e.g. rodents).

Do not feed on the ground, as this makes birds more vulnerable to hawks. You can also place feeders under covered areas to make it harder for hawks to spot and drop on their prey.

Dense shrubbery that hawks cannot get into but smaller birds can will help to protect them; place feeders close to this.

What reptiles do Hawks eat?

hawk eating snake

Hawks also hunt snakes, lizards, and turtles at times. Most hawks are not fussy about the kind of snake they eat, and will go for anything they can find. You may see hawks attacking garter snakes, rattlesnakes, black rat snakes, or anything else that they can find.

Snakes make up a surprisingly large part of a hawk’s diet, and most hawks depend on snakes as a valuable food source. They will hunt any they can find that are small enough to be tackled.

Hawks also hunt lizards. They are fast enough to catch them in spite of how quickly lizards can move, and will drop on them from above while they sunbathe. Again, they are indiscriminate about what kinds of lizards they hunt.

If given the opportunity, they will also take and eat turtles. These may be rather harder to tackle than a snake, but hawks will still eat them.

If you have a pet turtle, you should only ever put it outdoors in a hawk-proof enclosure, or it may quickly disappear.

What else do Hawks eat? Do they eat fish?

As well as rodents, birds, and reptiles, hawks eat many other animals. They will even go for insects, which may surprise you; some kinds of hawk actually specialize in hunting bugs.

Grasshoppers, praying mantis, large beetles, etc., are popular food with some of the smaller hawks. 

Large hawks tend to hunt bigger prey, but will take insects if they are hungry and there are no other sources of food. Insects are high in protein, and probably much easier to consume than a snake or turtle.

You may also see hawks hunting frogs, newts, and other amphibians if they get the opportunity.

Although they don’t specialize in water-hunting, many are capable of catching these creatures on the banks, and they make an easy meal if they can grab them.

Occasionally, hawks will also hunt fish. This is a little rarer, and is usually a result of opportunism. Again, some kinds of hawks are more likely to hunt fish than others, but any may take a fish if they get the chance.

Usually, they will only hunt fish near to the surface, but if you have a fish pond, you should put up netting to protect the fish from aerial predators. If not hawks, other hunting birds will certainly grab an opportunity to eat fish.

On rare occasions, hawks may also eat things like bats – they really are not fussy and will prey on almost anything that is small enough for them to eat.


So, what do hawks eat? Almost any meat they can tackle! They are indiscriminate feeders and will chase and eat anything that is not too big for them.

Different kinds of hawks specialize in hunting different kinds of prey, but few hawks will turn down an opportunity to grab fresh meat of any kind.

You should think about hawks as potential predators for any pets you have, and take the necessary precautions to keep your little friends safe from aerial attacks.

Related Questions

Is it good to have a hawk in your yard? Most bird lovers won’t try to attract hawks into their backyard as they prey on other small birds loved by them. However, some believe that attracting hawks into their backyard makes them feel proud as hawks are rare species.

Do hawks eat cats? I have seen several videos where hawks are attacking cats. So, if they can attack, they have potential to eat cats too. The below video shows hawks attacking cats.

What attracts hawks in your yard? If you have feeders in your backyard that attracts sparrows, doves, thrushes, and finches, you are likely to attract hawks in your yard. Rodents and insects can also attract hawks.

Source – Sciencing.com

Donald Bergeson

I have always been fascinated by the skill, strength, and beauty of birds.They help in maintaining a balance of ecological environment. At Best Bird Guide, I share all of my experiences and discoveries that I have got so far and inspire more devoted fans.

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