Hawks are considered a predatory bird which often causes the question of, “What do hawks eat?” to arise.  Birds of prey are often known as raptors and other species of these type include vultures, eagles, ospreys and falcons.  Technically speaking, a bird of prey is any species that hunts for their food while flying through the air and preys on animals.  Their beaks are designed fairly large and are ideal for piercing or tearing pieces of flesh.

Hawks are carnivores and have the ability to dive at 120 miles per hour to attack their prey.  They will commonly feed on squirrels, mice, moles and shrews but are fully capable of killing and consuming animals such as raccoons, cats and dogs.  Additionally, they enjoy small birds, bats, ducks, rabbits, fish, lizards, frogs, snakes, toads and the occasional grasshopper.  Hawks swallow the fur, feathers and bones of their prey and regurgitate anything that their bodies cannot digest.

When finding the answer to the, “What do hawks eat?” question, you must also examine the feeding habits of the baby hawks.  They are also carnivores and primarily feed on insects, crustaceans, carps, catfish and lizards.

Cooper's Hawks primarily feed on other birds with the common targets being American Robins, European Starlings, doves, quail, pheasant, chickens and grouse.  They are known for robbing nests and often eat squirrels, hares, chipmunks and bats as well.  Then there are species like the Swainson's Hawks that will eat common vertebrates but also add a great deal of insects like locusts, grasshoppers and crickets to their diet which makes them helpful for agricultural farmers to have around.

The Red-tailed Hawk is the most popular species in North America and you can often observe them circling the air when they are looking to catch the movement of a potential food source.  Unlike other species that opt for the explosive, fast plunge, this species is characterized by its slow and very controlled dive with its legs completely stretched out, ready to grasp its prey.

Hawk Habitat

Hawks are found all over North America on elevated perches or high in the trees.  The Red-tailed Hawk is usually found in marsh habitats or grasslands but is extremely adaptable and can be comfortable in forests and deserts.  Swainson's Hawks that are found in the West have been known to migrate all the way to South America for the winter which shows the habitat versatility of these birds.

These birds of prey live quite often to be 20 years old, partially due to the fact that they have barely any predators.  Humans are the primary predator to hawks due to pollution and habitat destruction.


A fascinating characteristic of the hawk is its acute eyesight.  Their eyes are eight times stronger than a human's with perfect vision, which is how they can scope out their food from such unbelievable heights.  These birds are capable of flying at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour and they are quite comfortable flying for thousands of miles to reach their migration destination.  Hawks are easily recognized for their stout bodies, rounded tail feathers and broad wingspans that can often reach up to 60 inches.


Nest building and mating starts in the spring and they are usually built up to 75 feet high in a fork of a tree.  The nest is shallow, flat and very large and is used quite often for several years in a row since hawks mate for life.

Two eggs is the average that is laid and they incubate for approximately a month.  The male brings food to the nest for the female during this time.  After hatched, the young stay in the nest for around another month and a half.  When they are ready both the mother and father teach these young hawks how to spread their wings and fly.