Many species of hawk prey on birds – and some larger hawks occasionally eat owls. More likely though, they attack them for territory rather than for food.
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Why Do Hawks Eat Owls?
Hawks in general are like most birds of prey in that they are opportunists. This means they usually eat the most common prey – or animals that are easy to catch – regardless of what they are. They need to eat other animals in order to survive and they aren’t too fussy about who that is.
If they live in a habitat where there are plenty of voles – they eat mainly voles; if they live in a place where there are plenty of slow-moving pigeons – they eat mainly pigeons. However, if they are hungry and come across an easy-to-catch mouse, rabbit, grouse, or owl – then food is food. As long as it is small enough to safely kill and eat – boom.
Some hawks are larger and so need to eat more – especially when they have chicks to feed. They are less fussy about what they catch to make sure they don’t go hungry. Ferruginous Hawks, for example, live on prairies and open grasslands eating mainly large rodents such as prairie dogs and kangaroo rats. However, in this same habitat, there are Burrowing Owls and Short-eared Owls – so they are sometimes taken instead.
Often though, owls are just competition for nesting sites and are a threat to hawks in the same home range. A hawk will either move on to a new area – or if the range is a good one – may try to chase off the owl.
Which Is Bigger: Hawks Or Owls?
There is a huge range of sizes for both animals – as they fit across a wide range of niches – but the biggest owl in the world is much bigger than the biggest hawk. Almost twice the size. in weight
- Blakiston’s Owl is the largest owl weighing up to 10lbs with a wingspan to match: 2 meters wide
- Ferruginous Hawk is the largest hawk weighing up to 5lbs with a wingspan up to 1.5 meters wide
However in the U.S. the largest owl is the Snowy Owl – but it still beats the hawk with maximums – but averages may be very similar overall:
- Snowy Owls weigh up to 5.3lbs with a wingspan of up to 1.8 meters
Luckily for both of them – they hunt at different times mostly. Hawks hunt during the day catching diurnal prey – and owls hunt at night catching nocturnal prey.
Are Hawks Afraid Of Owls? 🦉
There is a common misconception that hawks are scared of owls due to clever marketing. Generally, hawks will try to avoid coming up against another predator. Survival depends on not getting injured – so most predators will avoid another predator where they can.
If a hawk comes across an owl, therefore – it may well just decide to go elsewhere. Owls can be just as ferocious as hawks – but the two rarely meet due to their different time slots for hunting. However, they will usually go for the easiest option overall.
Therefore, if you stick a plastic owl up on your land or in your yard – a real good outline is best – then a hawk may well choose to go elsewhere. Not because it is scared – but because it is clever.
Spotting that owl – plastic or not – before it spots you is the most intelligent thing to do. Just like us – if we spot a bear or wolf – we head the other way fast. It’s a no-brainer.
If the hawk thinks that this is a good spot for hunting though – or the owl is an intruder onto its well-earned patch – the hawk won’t hesitate to chase it off or attack it. Size pending of course. Only a big hawk could chase off a big owl.
Do Owls Eat Hawks?
Owls generally would not attack a hawk – they don’t want to get injured either.
If they were going to go head-to-head: owls, if anything, have the advantage over hawks as they can fly silently – and they are ‘sit and perch’ predators.
The fact that they can look like branches too – while they sit totally still for hours – is a great ambush technique. Birders have often reported seeing Great-horned Owls dropping down silently onto hawks in woodland. Owls are great bird hunters anyway – so if they can grab the hawks from above – they can avoid those dangerous talons.
Owls also have the advantage of having extremely powerful talons themselves – so can often kill prey on first grab by crushing the skull. A well-timed aerial attack could well be all they need to overpower such large and well-armed competition.