What Do Hawks Eat in the City?

Hawks are known as birds of prey. It means they feed on other animals but what do hawks eat in the city? You might be asking this question because in the city there may not be any good food sources for them right?

In cities, Hawks eat mostly Starlings however, they also feed on pigeons, sparrows, and swallows. Besides that, they also eat rats, mice, and squirrels too.

However, that’s not all because there are different types of hawks and each one of them is slightly different. 

If you are here to learn about what do hawks eat in the city then I highly recommend you reading this article to the end.

It is because I’ve explained everything in detail about hawks and their diet in the city.

So without any further ado, let’s get started.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole article here’s a quick summary for you…

Hawk SpecieWhat do they eat?
Red-tailed HawksRodents, rabbits, squirrels, and some reptiles too like snakes and lizards
Swinson’s HawkRabbits, squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, etc 
Cooper’s HawkMammals such as chipmunks, grey squirrels, and rabbits
Red-shouldered HawkReptiles like frogs, lizards, or snakes as well as mammals such as rabbits and chipmunks
American Kestrel Mice, lizards, frogs, and sometimes they hunt for grasshoppers and crickets too
Sharp-Shinned HawkBirds such as sparrows, thrushes, juncos, pigeons, and ducks
Peregrine FalconsLarge insects such as grasshoppers and crickets
Mississippi kites Fish such as herrings, shad, perch, etc. insects such as grasshoppers, crickets as well as blackbirds, wrens, etc.

Different Types of Hawks

what do hawks eat in the city_

First of all, let me tell you about a few types of hawks. Trust me it will make things easier for you to understand and as a bird watcher, you will understand the hawk’s diet much better.

Red-Tailed Hawks

The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common types of hawk you can find in North America. In addition to that, it is the largest type of the Buteo Hawk Family. It has a short tail with a broad head and a brown body with rusty-red tails.

I call it the most common type of hawk in North America because Red-tailed Hawks are one of the widest spread types of hawk.

Swainson’s Hawk

Another type is the Swainson’s Hawk that is known for its long legs, wide eyes, long wings, and slim body. They eat medium-sized birds such as ducks, hawks, herons, etc. Their diet also consists of snakes, frogs, and other reptiles as well as rodents such as mice.

Cooper’s Hawk

Then we have the Cooper’s Hawk which is similar to the Buteo Family. They are small and slender and can be found in deciduous forests or woodlands and sometimes even in city parks.

They prefer rodents, doves, and shorebirds when it comes to their diet. In addition to that, they also eat birds such as robins and blue jays. They are one of the most common hawks you find in urban areas.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The last type is called Red-shouldered Hawk which is medium-sized with broad wings and a long tail.

However, they prefer habitats that consist of forests where they can find the prey they eat such as squirrels and chipmunks.

You can find them in North America and some parts of Florida.

American kestrel

In addition to those, there is another hawk called the American kestrel which is only about the size of a pigeon. However, they can adapt to any environment and they mostly feed on mice, grasshoppers, and large insects.

However, their diet varies according to season and habitat mainly.

Sharp-shinned hawk

Another type is called the sharp-shinned hawk which is also a member of the Accipiter family. It has a short tail and a small head with a blue upper body and brown wings.

Their diet consists of small birds such as sparrows, juncos, thrushes, etc. However, they have been seen eating other

Peregrine falcons

Peregrine Falcons are large and slender with a blue-grey upper body and the lower half is white. Their diet consists of other birds such as pigeons, ducks, shorebirds, etc.

Mississippi Kites

Finally, the last hawk and the rarest one is the Mississippi kite which looks like a red-tailed but with more white color on their bodies.

Their diet is mostly made up of fish such as herrings, shad, perch, etc. However, they also eat insects such as grasshoppers and crickets as well as blackbirds, wrens, etc.

Also, Read – How to Attract Ravens

Learn What Do Hawks Eat In The City? (Each Type of Hawk)

image of a hawk feeding on a mouse

Remember when I told you that there are different types of hawks? Here I meant that each type of hawk has a slightly different hunting technique and diet.

Besides, one may eat squirrels while the other hunts for waterfowl. This is what makes it difficult to answer what do hawks eat in the city. In addition to that, each individual hawk is attached to a certain type of prey.

Let’s discuss the diets of each type of hawk

What Do Red-Tailed Hawks Eat in the City?

Red-tailed hawk’s diet mainly consists of rodents, rabbits, squirrels, and some reptiles too like snakes and lizards. 

If you are wondering where they live then you can find them in parks, farms, towns, backyards, etc. They also favor the open grasslands and cultivated fields.

What about Swainson’s Hawks?

Swainsons’ hawks also eat rabbits, squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, etc but unlike red-tailed hawks, they prefer to live in woodlands near moist areas. In addition to that, they find their prey in the farmlands or meadows.

What Do Cooper’s Hawks Eat in the City?

Cooper’s hawk is another type that lives in urban areas because they are mostly found in deciduous or mixed forests that consist of open fields, clearings, and some grasslands too.

They prefer to live near lakes, rivers, swamps, etc. However, their main diet consists of mammals such as chipmunks, grey squirrels, and rabbits.

What Do Red-Shouldered Hawks Eat in the City?

Red-shouldered hawk lives in deciduous forests which consist of rivers, swamps, etc near moist areas. Their main diet consists of the reptiles like frogs, lizards, or snakes. However, they also eat the mammals such as rabbits and chipmunks too.

What About American Kestrels?

The American kestrel is a type that lives in urban areas. This means that their main diet consists of mice, lizards, frogs, and sometimes they hunt for grasshoppers and crickets too.

However, they don’t only eat these types of insects but they also devour other birds too. In addition to that, they can hunt for snakes and other lizards as well as large insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.

What About Sharp-Shinned Hawks?

Sharp-shinned hawk lives in urban areas mainly because their main diet consists of other birds such as sparrows, thrushes, juncos, etc. However, they also eat other types of birds such as pigeons and ducks.

What Do Peregrine Falcons Eat in the City?

Peregrine falcons are another type that hunts for other birds such as shorebirds or waterfowls during the winter and swifts and pigeons during the summer. However, they also eat large insects such as grasshoppers and crickets while they are in the city.

What Do Mississippi Kites eat in Urban Areas?

Mississippi kite is a type of hawk that mostly hunts for fish such as herrings, shad, perch, etc. In addition to that, they also eat other types of birds such as blackbirds, wrens, etc.

So as you see there is a wide variety of prey that hawks eat such as squirrels, rabbits, lizards, etc. However, all I can say about what do hawks eat in the city is that they mainly hunt for rodents and birds.

Check Out How to Attract Eagles to Your Yard?

What can I feed a wild hawk?

A hawk eating meat

Well, it’s actually not a good idea to feed wild hawks for many reasons. Firstly feeding them makes them dependent on humans and they may get sick because of that.

In addition to that, you should know that these types of birds don’t need your help especially when it comes to hunting their prey.

In fact, what do hawks eat in the city is very healthy because they prey on other animals that are sick. The last reason why you shouldn’t feed wild hawks is that it’s illegal to do so and can cause problems.

Do hawks eat cats?

There is no evidence that hawks hunt cats. However, they do like other animals such as rodents and birds. So it’s possible for them to eat your house cat if they see it outside especially when the hawk lives in an urban area too.

But keep in mind that not all hawks eat cats even though there are some exceptions like the peregrine falcons.

What is it like to be attacked by a hawk?

According to sources, they grab their prey with their talons and then smack them against the ground until death comes. Once they are dead, they start eating right away. So most of these types of birds don’t eat their prey while it’s alive.

Can a hawk pick up a 20-pound dog?

Like all birds, hawks are very strong compared to their weight. They can pick up a 20-pound dog without any problems especially when they attack their prey in the air first.

However, since your pet is on the ground there is a possibility that it will defend itself by biting the hawk’s legs if it attacks first. This will make the hawk fly away and drop your pet because it’s too heavy to carry.

But keep in mind that if the hawk decides to fly down first, chances are your dog won’t have any chance against the hawk. This is why you should always keep your pets inside or be close to you so they can defend themselves against hawks when needed.

Suggested Read – How to tell if a bird is stunned or dead?

Do hawks attack people?

If a hawk gets too close to you, it may feel threatened and try to defend itself by attacking you.

Once this happens, they will try to cut your skin with their talons, but that’s the worst that can happen if you don’t wear any type of glasses or hat when in nature.

In fact, people that have been attacked by a hawk said that the attack didn’t hurt as much as they thought it would do.

In addition to that, their attacks are very accurate and will only bite the head or the face because those areas represent a threat for them.

Do hawks eat their prey alive?

Most of the time, hawks kill their prey before eating them. However, there are exceptions such as the Accipiters that eat their prey while it’s still alive.

So if a hawk gets hungry and can’t find its usual food it will catch any type of animal even if it’s still alive.

In conclusion, wild hawks usually kill their prey before eating them. But if necessary, they will eat them while they are alive too.

Do hawks skin their prey?

As far as I know, hawks don’t skin their prey and just start eating it right away. This is mainly because they eat small animals that take little time to completely be eaten.

On the other hand, larger birds such as vultures do this process first before starting to eat which takes them considerable time before finishing their meal.

So it’s normal for hawks to eat their prey while the fur or skin is still attached.

Do hawks digest bones?

Birds don’t have teeth and since hawks eat their prey whole, they digest the bones too. This is important to them because they need calcium and other minerals to produce eggs for future generations.

In fact, bird’s bodies are full of small bones which reinforces their structure and makes them lighter. So if a hawk eats another animal that has bones in it, then the bones will become part of the hawk’s body too.

Do hawks hunt at night?

Birds, especially hawks are active during the day. This is because hawks use their eyesight to find their prey so they can’t do it at night when it’s too dark for them to see anything.

However, there are some exceptions like the owls that hunt mice and rats even if it’s super dark outside. They can easily do this because they use their ears and special feathers to locate their prey.

So if you see a hawk at night there is probably something wrong with it since they usually hunt during the day. 

a hawk holding its prey in its claws

Do hawks eat squirrels?

Yes, most hawks will eat squirrels if they can catch them. This is why you have to be careful when walking around your yard since a hawk might try to attack you because it sees you as potential prey.

In addition to that, squirrels are rodents and they carry all types of diseases so the hawk’s health may get affected too.

Do hawks eat rabbits?

Hawks usually eat small animals such as squirrels, rats or even rabbits if they are in the mood to do it. This is because these animals are easy prey for them and they can catch them without any effort.

However, it’s important to mention that there are some exceptions like goshawks that hunt bigger prey such as rabbits. They can do it in a couple of minutes because they are very powerful.

So, in conclusion, hawks will try to eat any type of animal if they are hungry enough including rabbits, but the best option for them is small animals that are easy to catch.

Do hawks eat frogs?

Hawks do eat frogs if they are in the mood to do it, but this is rare because their usual diet includes small animals such as rats. But if there are no other options then a hawk will go after a frog.

In addition, owls can catch frogs too even though their usual food consists of mice or rats. So it doesn’t matter if they are hawks or owls, they will go after frogs every time.

So the answer to this question is yes, hawks love to eat frogs too.

Do hawks catch fish?

No, hawks don’t eat fish because they have a strong dislike for this type of food. This is mainly due to the fact that fish are slippery so it can be difficult to catch them as prey.

In addition to that, the mouth and throat of a hawk aren’t suitable for catching fish since its mouth always gets filled with water which makes it difficult for them to catch other prey.

But, you may see a hawk eating fish if the fish is already dead and floating on the surface of the water.

Don’t Forget to Check out Where to See Starling Murmuration in USA

Last Minute Thoughts

What Do Hawks Eat in the City? well, the answer to this question depends on the type of hawk.

As I’ve already mentioned above, there are different types of haws and each one has a slightly different diet.

However, according to my research, mostly hawks in the cities feed on birds, mice, rats, reptiles such as snakes, etc, and grasshoppers too.

If there’s a hawk circling above your yard make sure to fully protect your kittens, squirrels, and chicks if you have any. It is because they can attack them too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, If there’s anything I’ve missed please do let me know. I will happily add it to this guide to make it more helpful for fellow bird watchers.

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