What To Feed Hawks 10 Master Tips

What to feed hawks, Hawks are magnificent birds of prey that have captured the imagination of humans for centuries. These raptors are known for their exceptional hunting skills, sharp eyesight, and impressive aerial maneuvers. As apex predators, hawks play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems. However, understanding their dietary needs is essential for those who wish to care for them, whether in the wild or in captivity.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the fascinating world of hawk nutrition, exploring the diverse prey items that make up their diet, the specific requirements of different hawk species, and the best practices for feeding hawks in captivity. We will also address common questions and concerns regarding hawk care and provide valuable insights for falconers and bird enthusiasts alike.

Types of Hawks and Their Diets

Hawks are a diverse group of raptors, with each species adapted to a specific hunting style and prey preference. Understanding the dietary needs of different hawk species is crucial for ensuring their optimal health and well-being.

Red-tailed Hawks

Red-tailed hawks are one of the most common and widely distributed hawk species in North America. These powerful raptors primarily hunt small mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and squirrels, but they are also known to prey on birds, reptiles, and even insects.

Cooper’s Hawks

Cooper’s hawks are agile and stealthy hunters, often found in suburban and urban areas. Their diet consists mainly of small to medium-sized birds, such as songbirds, doves, and pigeons. They are also known to prey on small mammals and reptiles.

Sharp-shinned Hawks

Sharp-shinned hawks are compact and nimble raptors, known for their exceptional aerial hunting skills. Their diet is primarily composed of small birds, including sparrows, finches, and warblers. They may also occasionally prey on small mammals and insects.

Feeding Hawks in Captivity

For those who keep hawks as part of falconry or educational programs, providing a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for maintaining the birds’ health and ensuring their longevity.

Whole Prey

The most natural and recommended diet for captive hawks consists of whole prey items, such as rodents, rabbits, birds, and quail. These prey items should be properly sourced from reputable suppliers to ensure they are free from harmful chemicals and contaminants.

Prey ItemNutritional ValueSuitable for
MiceHigh in protein, low in fatMost hawk species
RatsHigh in protein, moderate fatLarger hawk species
QuailRich in protein, essential nutrientsAll hawk species
ChicksExcellent source of protein and calciumGrowing hawks, breeding pairs


While a whole prey diet is ideal, captive hawks may require additional supplementation to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients. Vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as calcium sources like bone meal or cuttlebone, can be provided to maintain optimal health.

Water and Hygiene

Access to clean, fresh water is essential for hawks in captivity. Their enclosures should be kept clean and free from potential contaminants or sources of disease.

Prey Items for Hawks

In the wild, hawks are opportunistic hunters, preying on a variety of animals based on availability and their hunting abilities.


Small to medium-sized mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and squirrels, are common prey items for many hawk species. These animals provide a rich source of protein and fat, essential for the hawks’ energy needs and overall health.


Hawks are skilled avian hunters, and many species specialize in preying on other birds. Songbirds, doves, pigeons, and game birds like quail and pheasants are all potential prey for hawks.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Some hawk species, particularly those found in warmer climates, may prey on reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes, lizards, and frogs. These prey items can provide valuable nutrients and contribute to a varied diet.

Insects and Invertebrates

While not a primary food source, hawks may occasionally consume insects and other invertebrates, particularly during times when their preferred prey is scarce.

Supplementation and Veterinary Care

Even with a balanced diet, captive hawks may require additional care and supplementation to maintain their health and well-being.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements can be used to ensure that captive hawks receive all the necessary nutrients for proper growth, development, and overall health. These supplements should be administered under the guidance of a qualified veterinarian or falconry expert.

alcium Supplementation

Calcium is crucial for hawks, especially during the breeding season and for growing chicks. Providing additional calcium sources, such as cuttlebone or calcium supplements, can help prevent deficiencies and ensure strong bone development.

Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary check-ups and preventive care are essential for captive hawks. A qualified avian veterinarian can monitor the bird’s health, provide appropriate medical treatment when needed, and offer guidance on nutrition and husbandry practices.

Special Considerations

When caring for hawks, it is important to consider their unique needs and behaviors.

Feeding Schedules

Hawks in the wild are accustomed to consuming their prey in one or two large meals per day. In captivity, it is recommended to mimic this feeding pattern by providing one or two appropriately sized meals per day, rather than multiple small feedings.

Environmental Enrichment

Hawks are intelligent and active birds, and providing environmental enrichment is crucial for their mental and physical well-being. This can include perches, toys, and opportunities for exercise and natural behaviors.

Handling and Safety

Hawks are powerful and wild animals, even when raised in captivity. Proper handling techniques and safety precautions should always be followed to prevent injury to both the bird and the handler.

What to Feed Baby Hawks

Caring for baby hawks, or nestlings, requires special attention and a specialized diet.

Feeding Nestlings

Baby hawks should be fed a diet of freshly killed or thawed prey items, such as mice, day-old chicks, or quail. The prey should be chopped or shredded into small pieces and fed using forceps or tweezers.


Ensuring proper hydration is essential for nestlings. They may need to be provided with supplemental fluids, such as electrolyte solutions or pedialyte, under the guidance of a qualified rehabilitator or veterinarian.

Proper Housing and Care

Nestlings require a warm, quiet, and stress-free environment for optimal growth and development. They should be housed in a secure, well-ventilated enclosure with appropriate bedding and perches.


Providing a balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for the health and well-being of hawks, whether they are in the wild or in captivity. By understanding their dietary needs, offering a variety of whole prey items, and providing necessary supplementation, hawk enthusiasts and falconers can ensure that these magnificent raptors thrive.

Remember, caring for hawks requires specialized knowledge, resources, and a commitment to responsible ownership. If you are considering keeping a hawk, it is essential to consult with experienced falconers, rehabilitators, or avian veterinarians to ensure you can provide the proper care and meet the bird’s unique needs.

FAQs About What To Feed Hawks

What do hawks eat most?

Hawks are opportunistic hunters and their diet can vary based on their specific species, location, and prey availability. However, most hawks primarily prey on small to medium-sized mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and squirrels, as well as birds like songbirds, doves, and game birds.

How do you look after a hawk?

Caring for a hawk requires specialized knowledge and expertise. It involves providing a balanced diet of whole prey items, ensuring access to clean water and a secure enclosure, providing environmental enrichment, and seeking regular veterinary care. Proper handling and safety precautions are also essential.

What are hawks best at?

Hawks are exceptional aerial hunters and are renowned for their keen eyesight, agility, and hunting skills. They are particularly adept at spotting and capturing prey from great distances, using their powerful talons and hooked beaks to subdue their prey.

What do hawk eggs look like?

Hawk eggs vary in appearance depending on the species, but they are generally oval or spherical in shape and can range in color from white to shades of blue, green, or brown. Many hawk eggs have speckles or blotches, which can help camouflage them in the nest.

What can I feed a baby hawk?

Baby hawks, or nestlings, require a specialized diet of freshly killed or thawed prey items, such as mice, day-old chicks, or quail. The prey should be chopped or shredded into small pieces and fed using forceps or tweezers. Proper hydration and housing conditions are also crucial for their growth and development.

What do hawks symbolize?

Hawks have long been associated with various symbolic meanings in different cultures. They often represent strength, courage, vision, and spiritual awareness. In some Native American traditions, hawks are revered as messengers from the spirit world, while in other cultures, they are seen as symbols of victory and success.

How big is a hawk?

The size of hawks can vary greatly depending on the species. Some of the smaller hawks, such as the sharp-shinned hawk, can be as small as 10 inches in length, while larger species like the red-tailed hawk can reach up to 25 inches in length. Their wingspan can range from 2 to 5 feet, with the larger hawks having the most impressive wingspans.

How big is a hawk’s nest?

The size of a hawk’s nest can vary based on the species and location, but they are generally quite large and sturdy structures. Red-tailed hawk nests, for example, can measure up to 3 feet in diameter and weigh several pounds. The nests are typically constructed with sticks, twigs, and other plant materials, and are often lined with softer materials like bark, grass, or feathers.

How do hawks hunt?

Hawks employ various hunting techniques depending on their specific species and prey preferences. Some hawks, like the red-tailed hawk, are known for their soaring and scanning abilities, where they use their keen eyesight to spot prey from great heights. Other hawks, such as the Cooper’s hawk, are skilled at ambush hunting, using their agility and speed to surprise and capture their prey.

Are hawks endangered?

The conservation status of hawks varies among species and regions. While some hawk populations are considered stable or even increasing, others are facing threats from habitat loss, illegal hunting, and environmental contaminants. Several hawk species are listed as endangered or threatened, highlighting the importance of conservation efforts and responsible stewardship of their natural habitats.

What kind of hawk has a white head?

The only hawk species found in North America with a distinctive white head is the Bald Eagle. Despite the name, Bald Eagles are not actually bald – their white head contrasts with a dark brown body and wings.

About the Author: Hudaibia

My name is Hudaibia with the profound passion for our feathered friends. Birds have captivated my heart and mind since childhood. Now I share my avian devotion through my website, mybirdfeed.com.