Hawks are well-known birds of prey and hunt other animals since they need meat for survival. Their excellent vision, 8x better than humans, makes them excellent hunters for small mammals like mice, rats, rabbits, etc.
But do hawks eat squirrels? Yes, hawks eat squirrels. The red-tailed hawks, to be specific, are fond of squirrel meat and have been observed countless times hunting for these furry critters. Their excellent vision enables them to easily locate their pretty from high above the sky and slowly attack and kill them with their powerful talons and beak.
Keep reading to discover more details on the hawks eating squirrels, the species of hawks that love squirrel meat, how these birds hunt squirrels, and so much more.
Do hawks eat squirrels?
Hawks are carnivorous and depend on animal meat for their survival. Therefore, it makes sense that these birds of prey will eat squirrels, ground squirrels, and other species of squirrels.
Their powerful talons and beaks give them an edge when hunting squirrels for food. These birds are even smart enough to target the baby squirrels in an attempt to lure the adult squirrels into defending their babies and catching them in the process.
However, not all hawks may eat squirrels. So, what kind of hawks eat squirrels?
As we said above, the red-tailed hawks have a ferocious appetite for squirrel meat. In fact, 80% of this species of hawk diet comprises small rodents, including squirrels.
This hawk species is most common in the United States and is characterized by a large body and small eyes and is mostly diurnal. It prefers eating the gray squirrels in addition to mice, rabbits, rats, and other small animals.
Raptors in the same species category as red-tailed hawks that feed on squirrels include Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough Legged Hawk, and Red Shoulder Hawk. These birds are large and powerful, allowing them to hunt rodents and other small mammals.
Hawks are generally opportunistic hunters and will go for various other food types their eyes fall upon. These foods include snakes, birds, lizards, rodents, and insects. Still at it, some hawk species like the Osprey will even snack on the fish.
Given that the adult hawks are meat eaters, the baby hawks will also feed on the same. However, the baby hawks can’t hunt on their own and depend on their parents for food.
How do hawks kill squirrels?
Hawks are highly efficient hunters! That goes without saying. Their excellent body adaptations and vision give them an edge when it comes to killing their pretty. These include keen eyesight, magical talons, and a powerful flight.
When it comes to hunting squirrels and their prey in general, these birds employ three main hunting styles—perching, gliding, and dodge hunting.
For the perching part, the hawk usually sits (perches) on a tree branch. From this position, it patiently waits and keeps an eye on the squirrels roaming in the area. It gives the prey time to get within striking range, then flies down and attacks it. This is the most common style of hunting employed by hawks.
Glide hunting style is where this bird of prey glides above before it targets a suitable prey and ultimately dives down and kills it. This hunting style is known to bring the birds sheer success when hunting their target.
As for dodge hunting, the hawk weaves between thick foliage instead of perching on branches. From this position, it prepares for an incredibly strong landing—strong eno9ugh to deliver a killing blow. However, this is a more effective method for hunting insects and small birds.
Note that hawks usually go down to prey on squirrels only if they’re sure they’ll lift them away after killing them. The birds are generally capable of catching and carrying a big adult squirrel and a variety of squirrel species, including the red squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, etc.
Regardless of the hunting method, when they finally get hold of their pretty, these predators grab them with their sharp claws/ talons. They then try to suffocate them by gabbing their neck. This is a smart move to neutralize the prey since squirrels can fight back and damage the hawk’s legs with their sharp teeth.
When the hawk succeeds in killing the prey, it can choose to feed on it on the ground or pick it up and fly with it to its nest.
Why do hawks attack squirrels?
Hawks are natural predators of squirrels and attack them for food when they get the chance. These birds will take advantage of a compromised or injured squirrel and kill it for meat.
However, a squirrel is 100% carnivorous and doesn’t feed on grains and fruits like crows and ravens. Thus, the hawk doesn’t compete for food with a squirrel and will never attack it to try and steal its food.
The hawks will prey on readily available animals near their surroundings, making squirrels one of their prey.
Keep in mind that these birds have powerful talons and strong beaks designed for grabbing and tearing apart their prey. This gives them an edge in hunting even the adult squirrels.
What scares hawks away from squirrels?
If you care about squirrels or other domestic animals in your backyard and want to scare away those hawks that might prey, the tips discussed below will come in handy.
- Use an owl decoy: Hawks are generally afraid of owls. Setting up a realistic owl decoy in your yard is a sure way to scare them away. Be sure to shift your decoy position more often to make it appear more realistic to the owls.
- Use reflective deterrents: Shiny reflective surfaces are also an effective weapon against weapons. Such deterrents include mirror balls, reflective tape, CDs, etc. Hang these on trees or sticks to scare away the hawks.
- Shield your backyard: a deer netting is a great way to shield your backyard or even chicken pen and act as a visual deterrent against the hawks.
- Make tree/shrub shelters for the vulnerable animal: Whether it’s the squirrels or chicken you’re protecting from the hawks, building such shelters will give them a safe place to hide where the hawks can’t easily spot them.
- Get rid of hawk perching areas: this tip is based on hawks beginning their hunt by perching on a tree branch. By pruning the tall trees in your yard, you’ll deny them a strategic hunting location and decrease their chances of attacking your pets.
A red shoulder hawk will eat a squirrel when it gets hold of one. Like other hawks, this bird species is also an opportunistic carnivore and will eat squirrel meat when they get it. Besides, the birds also hunt snakes, frogs, insects, and small birds. They feature strong talons to get hold of prey and kill it. And their powerful beaks help them tear apart the meat for feeding.
Squirrels may appear calm and friendly, but they don’t go down without a fight when faced by hawks. They have developed a defense mechanism to escape hawks and other aerial predators. For instance, the furry critters will make noise to warn the others when they notice a hawk.
Sometimes these rodents can also use their sharp teeth and paws to attack hawks, causing them severe injuries. They can mercilessly skin and bite hawks to save themselves, and they succeed at times!
Squirrels know when a hawk is nearby by listening to birds chirping. According to this study on up to 67 gray squirrels near northern Ohio School, these little furry creatures listen to the birds’ chattering to know if they should run for their dear lives from the hawks and other predators or if they should go back to their usual frolicking.
Hawks eat squirrels and are one of their top natural predators. These predatory birds rely on animal meat for survival. The red-tailed hawk, in particular, is fond of eating squirrel meats. Their excellent vision, powerful talons, beak, and powerful flight are all key features that make them excellent squirrel hunters.
The birds of prey are pretty smart and start their hunt by perching on a tree branch. They keep a strict watch across the surrounding area, and once they spot a squirrel, they flow down and attack them.
Do you want to know if hawks eat mice or doves? Read our articles about it to learn more.