Hawks are known as raptors predatory birds. Just like eagles, flacons and ospreys, they feed on small animals. They possess special traits which let them be successful in hunting and killing their prey. Further adaptations allow them to tear up and eat the meat while getting rid of the animal parts which they cannot digest.

Before an overview about what do hawks eat, let us take a look at the unique features which contribute towards their success as predators.

Feeding Adaptations

All hawk species possess some common traits which help them catch their prey and feed on it. These are described below:

  • Their extremely sharp eyesight, color vision and the ability to see ultraviolet rays of the light spectrum help them locate potential prey even from long distances. Then they use their fast flying speeds to get to the target animal promptly.
  • Their dives are fast, quick and timely. In this way, they can grab their prey and fly back before it gets any warning or any time to run away.
  • Their dangerous and scary talons are extremely sharp. These aid in scooping up the prey and holding it firmly as the bird takes flight. Later on, the prey is killed using these deadly talons.
  • The hooked and sharp beaks tear up meat to make it easy for the bird to feed on it.

A hawk eats the entire animal without selecting the edible parts. Later on, parts like feathers, bones and other non-digestible items are regurgitated.

Sources of Food

Now let's take a look at what these birds actually use their natural hunting weapons on. A hawk feeds on a large variety of organisms. It is classified as an opportunistic eater, that is, it feeds on any animal it finds without being choosy.

Here is a list of potential preys which are a source of food for a hawk.

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Snakes
  • Grasshoppers
  • Mice
  • Bird eggs
  • Shrews
  • Fish
  • Moles
  • Bats
  • Frogs
  • Lizards
  • Waterfowl
  • Toads
  • Small to medium birds

These intimidating birds can even feed on larger animals, such as chipmunks and dogs. They have also been seen carrying baby lambs away for a large meal to satisfy their hunger.

Where is the Food Found?

The above mentioned nutrition sources may be found at different areas depending on their habitat. Hawk birds exist all over the world. The ones living in forests have better access to a variety of meals for themselves. All small animals and insects dwelling in forests are tempting potential prey for them.

On the other hand, the species living near water bodies can get their hands on water animals, like fish and ducks. Those living near towns and human civilizations can find rodents, rabbits and small birds to fulfill their nutritional requirements. They may even sneak up on birds which come to feed at artificial bird feeders in home gardens and backyards.

Food for Baby Hawks

A baby hawk also has a meat diet right from the beginning. However, the size of animals it feeds on is smaller than what the adults can swallow. Their meals mostly consist of lizards, catfish, carps, crustaceans and insects. Babies kept as pets should not be fed milk by their owner. As already mentioned, it is meat which satisfies their hunger and which provides strength for their growth and normal development into an adult hawk. It also enables them to develop the habit of feeding on meat right from the beginning.

Preying Habits

Their preying habits include the method of grabbing the prey and killing it. Different hawk species kill their victims in different ways. Have a look at what the most common feeding habits are.

  • The prey is caught with their scaly, strong feet and gripped firmly with the help of their sharp talons. The victim is then squeezed repeatedly till it dies due to suffocation and damage to its internal organs. This type of behavior is mostly shown by Cooper's hawk.
  • Some species, such as Harris' hawk, hunt with four or five of its buddies. This group hunting is useful for killing larger animals, such as squirrels and chipmunks. The victim is surrounded by the birds, so that it cannot find a way to run away. After it is killed, its meat is shared among all the members of the hunting group.
  • Some drown the prey in water to kill it. This is mostly done by Cooper's hawk.
  • Generally, almost all species can kill their victims with the help of their talons.

These are some of the methods which turn a potential prey into a hawk's meal.

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