Who Eats Hawks? Predators of Our Sky Hunters

Paul West/ Pet And Wildlife Care

Hawks soar high and rule the skies, but even these fierce predators aren’t at the top of the food chain. You might be surprised to learn that these birds of prey can also become prey themselves. In this article, we’ll dive into the unexpected array of creatures that have hawks on their menu.

From cunning mammals to stealthy fellow birds, the list of hawk predators is as intriguing as it is diverse. You’ll discover who poses a threat to these powerful raptors and how the circle of life plays out above our heads. Stay tuned to uncover the predators that dare to take on the mighty hawk.

The Majestic Hawk: An Unexpected Prey

When you gaze at hawks soaring high above, it’s easy to see them as the epitome of avian dominance. With keen eyesight and swift flight, they’re adept at hunting down their prey. However, these majestic birds aren’t invincible. They, too, face dangers from other predators capable of turning the tables on them.

Eagles and large owls, for instance, pose a significant threat to hawks. These larger raptors have the strength and the means to overpower a hawk, especially juveniles or smaller species. Witnessing an eagle in pursuit of a hawk is a reminder that even skilled hunters can become the hunted.

On the ground, the risk continues. Predatory mammals such as bobcats and coyotes won’t hesitate to snatch an unsuspecting hawk if the opportunity arises. These animals take advantage of hawks during vulnerable moments, such as when they’re injured or focused on their own hunt.

  • Eagles and large owls attack from the air
  • Bobcats and coyotes wait for opportunities on the ground

In forested areas, squirrels and crows might retaliate against hawks that threaten their young. They often gang up, diving and harassing the raptor until it’s forced to flee. This defensive behavior showcases the intricate dynamics of predator-prey relationships.

The circle of life in the wild presents constant challenges for hawks, despite their fierce reputation. Each encounter with a predator is a complex dance of survival instincts and territorial defense. Understanding these interactions deepens your appreciation for the delicate balance within ecosystems and the unexpected vulnerabilities of even the most formidable birds.

Mammals That Target Hawks

When you think of hawks, you might imagine them as untouchable predators soaring high above the ground. However, they’re not always at the top of the food chain. On terra firma, these birds of prey face threats from various mammals known for their cunning and opportunistic hunting strategies.

Coyotes, crafty canines found across North America, won’t hesitate to snatch an unwary hawk that’s come down to the ground. Their sharp instincts and quick reflexes make them formidable adversaries for hawks on the hunt or resting. Similarly, bobcats—stealthy and powerful—lurk in habitats shared with hawks. They capitalize on any chance to pounce on a grounded hawk, using their agility and strength to their advantage.

In forested regions, you’ll also find red foxes, which though less likely to challenge hawks in the air, are skilled enough to target these birds when they’re vulnerable on the ground. And let’s not forget raccoons—often underestimated, they have been known to raid hawk nests, seeking eggs or hatchlings for a meal. These masked marauders are adept climbers and can navigate the vertical terrains that hawks call home.

You’ll be intrigued to learn that certain other animals, while not primarily hunters of hawks, can pose a threat. Take the black bear for example. Though their diet mainly comprises fruits, nuts, and small mammals, they won’t pass up an opportunistic snack if a hawk becomes accessible.

These mammals form a hidden gauntlet that hawks must navigate daily. Understanding the interplay between these species underscores the rich tapestry of the survival game playing out in the wild. It’s a clear reminder that nature’s complexities extend beyond the simple hunter-and-prey dynamics.

Each encounter between these mammals and hawks is a testament to the adaptability and survival instincts that govern life across different ecosystems.

Birds That Prey on Hawks

While mammals may seize the opportunity to prey on grounded hawks, avian predators also pose a significant threat. Even in the open skies, hawks are not always the aggressors; they can become the hunted. Eagles, particularly the bald eagle and golden eagle, are known to attack hawks. Their larger size and greater strength give them an edge over the smaller raptors.

Great horned owls present another danger to hawks, especially during the night. With their exceptional nocturnal hunting abilities, these owls can surprise and overpower unsuspecting hawks. Though encounters between these birds are not everyday occurrences, they underscore the complexity of avian hierarchy.

In some cases, larger hawks will prey on smaller hawks. The size and power dynamics of hawk species come into play here. For instance, Red-tailed hawks might hunt smaller Sharp-shinned hawks if food sources are scarce.

Birds of prey often engage in what is known as intraspecific competition, which essentially means competition within the same species. It’s not uncommon for hawks to challenge or even prey upon each other given the right circumstances. This behavior further illustrates the unpredictable nature of survival in the wild.

While rare, instances of crows and ravens mobbing and attacking hawks are documented. These birds typically do this in defense rather than as an active hunting strategy but it can result in injury or death for the hawk.

The risks hawks face from other birds emphasize the survival challenges these raptors encounter. From the night-hunting owls to the dominant eagles and their own kind, hawks must constantly navigate a world filled with potential adversaries. The sky is a battleground where vigilance and prowess determine who thrives and who becomes prey.

Surprising Predators in the Animal Kingdom

When you’re exploring the intricacies of food chains, you might not immediately think of hawks as prey. Yet, surprising predators do exist that challenge the dominance of these raptors. In the wild, it’s all about survival, and even the sharpest talons and keenest eyes can’t always guarantee safety.

For instance, snakes possess the cunning and stealth to ambush nesting hawks. Especially during the breeding season, when hawks are more bound to one location, snakes can slither undetected and attack hatchlings or even sitting adults. You’re likely aware of the red-tailed hawk, but smaller species, like the sharp-shinned hawk, are more vulnerable to these slithery adversaries.

Wolverines and other mustelids, though less common, have been known to prey on hawks too. Their ferocious nature and ability to climb trees can catch hawks off guard, especially in wooded areas where visibility is limited. It’s a stark reminder of the adaptability required to survive in these environments.

Among the feathered foes, the crow family stands out. These intelligent birds often mob hawks as a collective, using their numbers and coordinated attacks to overwhelm and sometimes kill a solitary hawk. While it’s rare for crows to outright eat hawks, these assaults can lead to injuries that later become fatal, demonstrating the unexpected dangers hawks face even from birds half their size.

Encounters with unexpected predators don’t end there. Climate change and human interference are shifting behavioral patterns, leading to increased interactions between hawks and unanticipated predators. Whether it’s due to habitat loss or newfound resource competition, hawks are navigating a world where traditional predator-prey dynamics are no longer predictable.

As you delve deeper into the predatory hierarchy, it becomes clear that hawks must constantly watch their skies–and backs–to avoid becoming the hunted. The challenges are plenty, and the animal kingdom never fails to surprise with its complexity and relentless drive for survival.

The Circle of Life: How the Hawk Fits In

When you think about the food chain, it’s clear that hawks play a complex role. As fierce and skilled predators, they’re often seen as the apex of their domain, but it’s important to recognize that they’re also a key part of the ecosystem as prey. Hawks help to maintain a balance in the animal communities they inhabit.

Ecosystem Balance is critical, and hawks contribute by controlling populations of rodents and insects. Without hawks, these prey species could explode in number, leading to crop damage and the spread of disease. Hawks’ hunting skills, therefore, offer a vital service in natural pest control.

Despite their prowess, hawks are vulnerable during different stages of life. Hawk chicks, for instance, are at risk from tree-climbing predators like raccoons. Even adult hawks must deal with the danger of territorial disputes which can become deadly.

Understanding where hawks fit into the food web, you’ll realize that a diverse array of animals, including larger birds of prey, can challenge their survival. Eagles and owls, for example, won’t hesitate to attack a hawk in a fight for territory or food.

Your grasp of the hawks’ position in this broader context helps you appreciate the delicate nature of their existence. As a species integral to their habitats, hawks influence the populations of prey animals. But they are also under constant threat from predators, both familiar and surprising, and must adapt to the evolving challenges of their environment.

Given the changes in climate and human expansion into natural territories, hawks are forced to navigate increasingly unpredictable landscapes. This reshaping of their world not only affects their roles as predators but also exposes them to novel dangers. As you follow their journey, you’ll see hawks as participants in a dynamic system, one that is always in flux, with each creature, including the hawk, playing a pivotal part.


Understanding the delicate balance hawks maintain in the ecosystem highlights their importance and vulnerability. As top predators, they’re crucial in controlling rodent and insect populations, yet they’re not invincible. They face significant challenges from other formidable birds of prey and the ever-changing environment shaped by climate change and human activities. Your awareness and appreciation of these majestic birds can lead to better protection efforts, ensuring their survival and the continued health of the ecosystems they help to balance. Remember, every creature has its place and purpose, and hawks are no exception.

Paul West
Share this Post

About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!