Ever wondered who falls prey to the wide winged Hawks that dominate the North-American skies? These large sized predators catch the attention of many bird enthusiasts as they keep surprising them with their wit and skill from time to time. There are several types of hawks and their categories differ with their location and diet.
With keen eyes, precise targeting and seamless attacks- they definitely make their presence felt in the bird kingdom. As carnivores, they hunt meat and bird watchers and experts debate and contemplate their eating habits from time to time.
But on careful noticing, some people found them hunting squirrels. While some agree and others don’t, the question arises- Do hawks actually prey on squirrels?
Researchers say hawks are opportunistic feeders and feed on mice, rats, lizards, snakes, etc. They also tend to eat small sized birds and bugs like crickets. Their diet majorly depends on their species.
A hawk’s vision is 8 times sharper than that of humans and they are known to be physically tough. They’re great fighters and can manage to brawl with other birds mid-air in case they have food. They live up to 13 to 20 years and the largest species is the bald eagle.
Coming to answering the question- Do hawks eat squirrels? Yes, they do. But the way they do so can be categorized into 3 ways:
Perch Hunting: They calmly wait for the squirrel to come within a striking range. They usually perch themselves on a brand and patiently watch the oblivious little squirrel wander around. As soon as they’re close enough to the hawk, it plummets down, straight towards the squirrel and ruthlessly grabs the small animal. They really enjoy this method and are seen doing this 8 out of 10 times.
The more interesting part is how the hawk prefers to carry this method out when they see 2 or more squirrels together and catch a couple of them at once for a hearty meal.Their success rates using this style is extremely impressive.
Glide Hunting: In this method, the hawk simply glides and follows their prey in the air. They spot their prey and calmly follow them while making their presence felt in case there is an evident shadow. When they feel the time is right, they suddenly dive down straight to the target and get a hold of the squirrel. They don’t do this method too often but their precision in this case is unmatched.
Dodge Hunting: This type of method is used when their prey is sitting in a tree. It is similar to gliding but they need to overcome obstacles like several branches and leaves. Therefore, they need to dodge them all with complete precision and focus. Once they find an easy target sitting on a tree, they very silently go for the kill without giving the squirrel too much time to react.
Using these tactics, hawks are easily able to get their meals. There are variations in the way they grab the squirrel as well.
Red hawks eat squirrels as well. But they are known to be more harsh and ruthless in their kill. Unlike most that use their mouth to catch and kill their prey, red hawks use their claws. Once caught, they dismember the kill and swallow it.
Contrary to their violent side, this species of hawks are known to be pretty peaceful as well. They have a unique mating style as well, making this species more interesting in its own ways. Both the male and female hawks fly high into the sky and start to move in a circular motion. They then move while the male starts to dive towards the female. He keeps doing the same over and over until he successfully latches on to the back of the female. Once set, they both freely fall downwards.
The red hawks are monogamous and loyal to their partner for life. Their committed relationship is truly an inspiration. In a year, the female can lay up to 5 eggs and both male and female will work towards taking care of the nest and eggs equally. Something that must be admired. Within a month, the eggs start to hatch and the parents will together continue to improve the nest.
Coming back to the question- even red hawks eat squirrels. It makes a lot of sense since squirrels are a good resource of food. Squirrels provide a lot of protein. Hence, they are nutritious and wholesome for these carnivores. Secondly, they are an easy catch for these smart birds. Thirdly, at times squirrels might come across as competitors for the hawks. Studies have shown that removal of squirrels from an area increases the number of hawks. In conclusion, the decrease in squirrels improves the survival chances of these hawks.
Regardless, hawks do eat squirrels.
While they are capable of feasting on dead squirrels, they would rather have their prey alive when they catch it. It gives them more nutrients when compared to the carcass of a squirrel. They consume almost all the parts of the squirrel- from the fur to the flesh. In cases where there is no choice, they would feed on dead squirrels. The nutrients would be significantly lower but it provides them with a filling meal.
In conclusion, hawks feed on a variety of animals. From medium sized to big sized. This majorly depends on their species and location. The food chain of the location matters a lot. A decrease in squirrels increases the population of hawks. There are 3 ways they hunt squirrels- Perch hunting, Glide hunting and Dodge hunting. They can eat squirrels both live and dead. Red Hawks also eat squirrels. They have a unique grabbing style using their claws and are very human-like when it comes to their relationship and nest-building activities. There are a lot of animals they can pray on with their precise vision, targeting capabilities and fierce movements. They truly are a marvel of nature and keep everyone- whether bird watchers on not intrigued in the fascinating ways of the hawk.