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Do Hawks Eat Squirrels? (Here’s the Truth)

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When it comes to predators in the bird world, few are as feared and respected as hawks. With their sharp talons and powerful beaks, hawks are apex predators that can take down prey many times their own size. So, it’s no surprise when people often wonder if these formidable hunters also eat squirrels.

A fierce-looking Red-tailed hawk killed a squirrel on the ground.

There’s much debate on this topic, but the simple answer is yes, hawks do eat squirrels. In fact, many hawk species are known to regularly prey on these small mammals. So let’s examine the hunting habits of hawks and find out which ones are most likely to snack on squirrels.

So, Do Hawks Eat Squirrels?

First and foremost, hawks are predators, and their primary food source consists of other animals. This can range from small mammals like mice and rabbits to reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even other birds. Simply put, hawks typically eat whatever prey is most plentiful and easily accessible in their given habitat.

Squirrels are widely available and relatively easy for hawks to catch, so it’s not uncommon for them to end up on the menu. Moreover, they’re packed with protein and other nutrients that help hawks stay healthy and fueled for hunting. While squirrels are generally too small to provide a full meal for larger hawks, they’re still a snack-sized option worth going after when the opportunity presents itself.

Which Hawks Eat Squirrels?

Certain hawk species have even adapted to hunting these small mammals specifically.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on a wooden pole.

Red-tailed hawks often target squirrels as a key part of their diet. In fact, they’re a notorious predator of backyard squirrels. These hawks will perch in a high spot and scan the ground below for potential prey. Then, when they spot a squirrel, they swoop down and grab it with their talons.

Cooper’s Hawk

Beautiful Cooper’s Hawk standing on a meadow.

The Cooper’s hawk is one of the most common predators of squirrels in North America. They often hunt in small groups (called a “kettle”), using their keen eyesight to spot squirrels hiding in trees or bushes. Once spotted, these hawks work together to flush the squirrel out into the open, where one of them can swoop in for the kill.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Beautiful Sharp-Shinned Hawk stadning on a hale bale.

The Sharp-shinned hawk is another predator of squirrels, although they typically hunt other birds. These hawks are some of the smallest in North America, but don’t let their size fool you – they’re incredibly adept hunters. Sharp-shinned hawks follow birds into thickets or forests, where their agility allows them to take advantage of the close quarters to snatch their prey.

Northern Goshawk

Beautiful Northern Goshawk standing on a rock covered by moss.

The Northern goshawk is a large hawk known to prey on squirrels, rabbits, and other small mammals. These hawks have long tails and broad wings that give them excellent maneuverability when ambushing prey in forests or fields. Their even been known to stalk their prey on foot – talk about a silent hunter!

Conclusion

Hawks are apex predators that feed primarily on small mammals, such as squirrels, rats, and rabbits. However, they are opportunistic hunters and seldom discriminate when it comes to their next meal. So while they don’t exclusively eat squirrels, hawks will definitely eat these small mammals if the opportunity arises.

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