In the realm of the skies, hawks reign as true avian champions. These fascinating birds possess an air of mystery and prowess that captivates our imaginations. It’s not just their hunting skills that make them extraordinary, these birds are the aerial acrobats of the bird world. Here are amazing hawk facts that will blow your mind!
1. Over 200 Hawks Species Exist
Hawks belong to the family Accipitridae and are a diverse group of diurnal birds of prey. They come in different sizes and forms and are widely distributed across various regions. There are two main groups of hawks: the Accipitrine group and the Buteo group.
Members of the Buteo group are also referred to as “hawk-buzzards.” In some areas, “buzzard” is the preferred term for buteonine hawks, while the term “true hawk” may be used specifically for accipitrine hawks.
The buteo group is characterized by short tails and large wings, whereas the accipitrine species possess elongated tails. In spite of their variations, they all shared traits that contribute to their efficiency as predators, including a large curved bill, sharp talons, and muscular legs.
With approximately 270 different types, they come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and other characteristics. Some have striped tails and white bands on their tails, while others come with red breasts, white heads, white chests, red eyes, or yellow beaks.
You can find them anywhere in the world. In the United States alone, you can observe 25 species, including the cooper’s hawk, red-tailed, white-tailed, roadside, rough-legged, short-tailed, and Harris’s hawk (or wolf hawk).
These birds have varied sizes, from small to big. Among these species, the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) holds the title of being the largest. This giant bird can reach a length of up to 69 centimeters (27 inches) and boasts an impressive wingspan of approximately 127 centimeters (50 inches). In terms of weight, it can tip the scales at 2.2 kilograms (4.85 pounds). On the other hand, the Ferruginous hawk is the biggest buzzard. It has a size of 51- 63 cm (20 – 25 inches) in length with a 56-inch (142 cm) wingspan and weighs up to 1.8 kg (4 pounds).
The little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) with yellow feet and eyes takes the crown as the smallest hawk species in the accipitrine group. Despite its diminutive size, measuring around 20 to 25 centimeters (7.9 to 9.8 inches) in length (with the tail accounting for roughly half of its overall length), it still possesses a wingspan of 39–52 centimeters (15–20 inches). zit weighs approximately 85 grams (3 ounces). The fastest one is the red-tailed species.
Some other species include the zone-tailed, the white, the northern harrier (or the ring-tailed), the Swainson’s, Hawaiian, crane, white-breasted, and the great black hawk.
These birds are incredibly versatile avian creatures that live in diverse areas across the Americas, encompassing North and Central America, Jamaica, and the West Indies. The red-tailed and Cooper’s hawk can be spotted across the entirety of North America, whereas Harris’s hawk species mainly thrive in certain regions of Latin America.
These avian creatures showcase a remarkable capacity to adapt to a diverse range of habitats, including deserts, marshes, fields, rainforests, prairies, mountains, savannas, coastal regions, grasslands, and tropical areas. These locations offer advantageous conditions for hunting and surveying potential prey.
Despite their impressive adaptability, these birds cannot be found in the cold of Antarctica. The climate here is too harsh for them to live here.
3. They are fearsome birds of prey
Hawks are omnivores animals. Their diet mainly consists of a diverse range of small animals, such as mice, amphibians, guinea pigs, rabbits, fish, weasels, snakes, birds, squirrels, lizards, and even small dogs and cats. Although primarily meat-eaters, they might occasionally eat plants or insects.
They possess remarkable hunting abilities and employ effective strategies. One common strategy is High Soaring, where the bird soars on thermal currents, seemingly uninterested in its surroundings but actually waiting for an opportunity to present itself. This method is primarily used by larger hawk species with excellent soaring capabilities, allowing them to cover long distances with minimal energy expenditure.
In contrast, the Low Soaring technique is employed by slightly smaller species in open habitats such as fields and meadows. It relies on surprise and swift action to capture prey.
Another hunting style is Perch and Swoop. The birds remain perched on a branch, silently observing its surroundings. It patiently waits until it spots suitable prey, then swiftly swoops down to capture its prey.
Cooperative hunting is also observed among hawks, where multiple individuals work together to catch prey bigger or stronger than themselves. One hawk acts as a decoy, creating panic and causing the prey to retreat, while the others wait to ambush it from another direction. This collaborative tactic is employed by various species, including the red-shouldered, red-tailed, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawk.
With excellent eye vision and sharp, curved talons, these birds can catch prey both in flight and on the ground. Once they successfully do it, they can consume it immediately or bring it to a designated feeding area, commonly a fencepost or a branch on a tree.
In that place, hawks seize their prey and rip the flesh apart with their powerful beaks. Once the food is digested, they expel a pellet that contains feathers, or small bones that might have been unintentionally swallowed.
Moreover, these species often engage in a behavior known as “mantling” when they have caught their prey. The birds crouch down and extend their wings to form a protective shield, effectively hiding the prey from other potential predators.
Although being excellent hunters, their young and eggs are often preyed upon by some predators, including snakes, eagles, raccoons, owls, foxes, and even bigger hawk species.
Hawks embody the perfect combination of strength, agility, and sensory acuity, enabling them to thrive in their natural habitat and maintain their status as skilled hunters in the animal kingdom.
Their efficient hunting arsenal includes sharp talons and a curved hooked beak, which serve as effective tools for grasping and tearing flesh with precision.
These formidable birds of prey boast large, broad, and robust wings that enable them to navigate the skies with agility and grace. They possess impressive speed, particularly when in pursuit of their prey. Certain species are even capable of reaching astounding dive speeds of 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour. This remarkable velocity empowers them to swiftly close in on their targets and ensure a triumphant hunt.
The birds possess remarkable sensory abilities that enhance their hunting abilities, complementing their impressive physical attributes. Their hearing sense is exceptional, and their vision surpasses all other creatures. Hawks not only perceive distant objects more clearly than humans, but their visual acuity is eight times superior to ours.
What’s more amazing is that they can see color. The species possess four color receptors, enabling them to perceive an extensive array of colors, including ultraviolet and polarized light. This exceptional visual ability provides them with a notable advantage in locating prey. Nonetheless, in contrast to their visual prowess, they have a relatively weak sense of smell.
Hawks primarily depend on their talons instead of their beak for capturing and eliminating their prey. Their feet are strong enough to carry animals weighing up to five pounds (2.3 kg). This means they can pick up your dogs or cats. These creatures are territorial species, protecting their resources and maintaining control over their habitat.
These birds of prey are diurnal, meaning they are most active during daylight hours. Their exceptional vision is highly effective in well-lit conditions. However, certain species may also engage in hunting activities around dusk. This time of day still provides sufficient light for them to continue their operations.
The raptors usually live alone, except for the mating season in spring or when they migrate. Migration is a common behavior among these creatures, with certain species undertaking extensive journeys spanning thousands of miles annually.
Before starting their migration, they adopt a strategic habit of storing extra fat, which acts as a source of sustenance throughout their journey. By the time they arrive at their final destination, this reserve of fat is consumed, ensuring they are adequately equipped for their new habitats.
The bird undertaking lengthier journeys embark on their flights ahead of those with shorter distances to traverse. Although solitary animals, hawks gather in groups known as kettle when migrating to enhance their chances of survival. By migrating in groups, they can take advantage of thermals, which are warm wind currents, to stay in the air without reliance on any external power supply. You can also see them fly in a circle to use the thermal.
Depending on the species and time of year, the groups can consist of thousands of birds. These species set off on their migratory journeys either in autumn or spring.
To communicate, the birds use a diverse range of sounds such as growls, screeches, creeks, screams, and hoots. These noises help them distinguish allies from enemies. The growls are employed during courtship, the screams are used to signal territorial defense or prey detection, and the hoots are utilized in everyday interactions.
Not only are these birds skillful hunters, but they are also highly intelligent creatures. They can use tools such as stones and sticks to get insects, showcasing their problem-solving abilities. Some can even use objects like rocks to find food.
6. They mate for life
Their mating season often takes place in the spring, from February to May. These birds are known for their distinct courtship display known as a sky-dance.
To get the female’s interest, the male engages in a breathtaking aerial performance, soaring to great heights with astonishing speed. Upon reaching a specific altitude, he initiates a melodious call to impress the female. If she likes the performance, she’ll emit a call and soar upwards to join him.
The male dives towards the female and together they ascend to their original height. They keep doing this movement until he attaches himself to her. Subsequently, they descend in a thrilling free fall toward the ground.
Hawks are monogamous animals. They consistently revisit the same nest annually, which functions as both a refuge and a protective sanctuary for their eggs. Nevertheless, in the event of one partner dying, they will seek out a new companion.
During the mating season, both males and females engage in nest-building activities. They collaborate to construct their nest, which is strategically positioned at a significant height to minimize the risk of predation. The female hawk typically lays a clutch of 1 to 5 eggs, depending on factors such as habitat, age, food supply, health, and species.
The eggs hatch after an incubation period of about 28 – 48 days. The newly hatched birds, called eyas, depend completely on their parents for food and safety. Since they are unable to fly and are born without sight, they stay in the nest for about 42 to 50 days. Once this period is over, they start to fledge. Nonetheless, they may stay with their parents for an additional 30 to 70 days, honing their flying abilities and learning how to hunt.
At this stage, the juvenile are significantly vulnerable, as they encounter various obstacles. Predators and human-induced dangers pose substantial challenges to their survival. In addition, their inadequate hunting abilities increase the risk of starvation.
Many of them cannot make it in the first year. Those who manage to reach adulthood, typically after three years, undergo a transformative journey. They acquire exceptional hunting skills and develop a heightened awareness of potential threats.
In their natural habitat, hawks generally have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. However, when kept in captivity, they tend to live for approximately 20 years.
7. Symbol, spiritual meaning, totem, and omen
The hawk symbolizes wisdom, highlighting the significance of gaining a broader perspective on situations and maintaining unwavering focus on the present task.
The species embodies multiple spiritual meanings. It represents being critical or judgmental, acting as a messenger between spiritual realms, and trusting oneself. Additionally, hawks symbolize preparing for significant changes, embody clarity and spiritual vision, and signify success and abundance through their ability to secure prey.
Hawk totems convey Nature’s messages and offer protection during travel. They symbolize leadership, vision, and the duty to deliver important but sometimes challenging messages. Other animal totems may be sent by hawks for assistance. Its position can serve as an omen, with a face-to-face encounter being positive and a turned-back view being negative.
8. Difference between hawk and eagle and falcon
|Nesting||In trees||Tree hollows||On cliffs or in trees|
|Ways to kill prey||Feet and talons||Tooth on beak||Feet and talons|