Hawks are a group of medium-sized diurnal birds of prey of the family Accipitridae which are widely distributed and varying greatly in size.
There are more than 200 species of hawks worldwide.
They are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Hawks inhabit different types of habitats: marshes, forests, rainforests, prairies, open savannas, grasslands, mountains, coastal regions and deserts.
Hawks are characterized by sharp talons, large, curved bill and muscular legs.
They have a lifespan between 10 and 20 years in the wild, depending on species. Some species can live up to 30 years in captivity.
The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is the largest hawk species. It is up to 69 centimeters (27 inches) long with wingspan up to 127 centimeters (50 inches) and weight up to 2.2 kilograms (4.85 pounds).
The little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus) is the smallest hawk species. This bird measures 20 to 25 centimeters (7.9 to 9.8 inches) in length (the tail makes up about half of its length), spans 39–52 centimeters (15–20 inches) across the wings, and weighs around 85 grams (3 ounce).
Hawks are diurnal birds of prey and hunt during daylight hours.
Hawks have excellent eyesight. They can see up to 8 times more clearly than the sharpest human eye. Eyesight is primarily used for hunting.
Their hearing is acute, but their sense of smell is poor.
Hawk species are known for their speed, particularly when chasing prey. During the hunt, some species of hawks can dive 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour through the air.
Hawks are able to catch a prey both in the air and on the ground. They use their sharp talons to both catch and kill their prey.
Hawks eat small mammals such as mice, rats, voles, squirrels and rabbits. They also eat insects, smaller birds, frogs, turtles and reptiles. Some hawks will even eat snakes and crustaceans.
The bird may eat on the ground or carry its kill to a feeding spot, often a fencepost or tree limb, where it plucks its prey and tears the meat apart with its beak.
Hours after eating, a hawk will regurgitate a pellet, containing any feathers, fur or small bones swallowed accidentally.
In general, hawks tend to be solitary birds, living with a mate during the spring but otherwise surviving alone – except the birds that fly to warmer climates in the winter, when they create large flocks during the migration.
When hawks flock, it’s called a kettle of hawks. A kettle might contain thousands of birds, depending on the type of hawk and the time of year. Typically preferring to live alone, hawks that migrate take advantage of large groups to help find warm wind currents known as thermals.
Some species of hawks tend to be monogamous, staying with the same mating partner their whole lives.
Hawks have been known for their mating season. The method this animal uses to reproduce is different from most. They perform a sort of courtship “dance”. The male and female will fly together up in the air in a circular motion. Once the two get to a certain height, the male will dive toward the female and then they will raise back to the height again. The two birds will repeat this until finally the male latches onto the female and they begin to free-fall down to Earth.
In one year, a female hawk will lay 1 to 5 eggs. Both the male and the female will cater and take care of the eggs for about a month until they hatch. The male and the female will also create their nest before the mating season and will improve it together during the nesting season.
Chicks grow and fledge quickly: young hawks begin to fledge in 42 to 48 days but remain with the parents for another 30 to 70 days, practicing their flying and hunting skills.
Within the hawk species, the female is generally larger than the male.
When a hawk screeches, it’s defending territory or communicating. They most often screech in flight.
Hawks can see colors, like most humans can, as well as those in the ultraviolet range. This means that the hawks can perceive colors that humans cannot see.
Hawks will frequently “mantle” prey after killing, crouching and spreading their wings to form a shield that hides it from other predators.
In February 2005, the Canadian ornithologist Louis Lefebvre announced a method of measuring avian “IQ” in terms of their innovation in feeding habits. Hawks were named among the most intelligent birds based on his scale.
The hawk totem provides wisdom about seeing situations from a higher perspective, using the power of observation, and focusing on the task at hand.
A war hawk, or simply hawk, is a term used in politics for somebody favouring war.
Numerous sporting clubs, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Hawthorn Hawks, use the bird as an emblem.