Like other birds of prey, hawks are fierce hunters known for preying on small mammals. They also hunt pigeons sometimes as the pigeons are smaller than them.
But do hawks eat pigeons? Yes. Hawks eat pigeons. And based on the prey’s availability and the hawk’s weight, these raptors can eat up to 8 small pigeons a day. Sometimes, hawks may eat pigeons alive. At other times, they prefer killing the pigeons before eating them.
Feeling curious? Stick around for more information about hawks eating pigeons and other interesting facts.
Do Hawks Eat Pigeons? If Yes, Why?
Yes. Hawks eat pigeons. As we said, all hawk species are strictly carnivorous, raptors or simply birds of prey. This means they get food from killing and eating other animals because they cannot digest plant proteins. Besides, their metabolic rate requires a lot of food to maintain their energy levels.
Accordingly, hawks also hunt and eat small to medium-sized birds. And as it turns out, pigeons are only 12 to 14 inches in length, making them medium-sized birds.
On the other hand, hawks are 12 to 20 inches long. This makes pigeons easy prey for different hawk species, including:
- Red-tailed hawk
- Sharp-shinned hawk
- Ferruginous hawk
- Goshawk and harrier hawk
Watch this short video of a sparrowhawk attacking and eating a pigeon alive:
How Do Hawks Kill and Eat Pigeons?
Typically, hawks kill pigeons before eating them whole. This helps ensure the prey does not escape or hurt them. However, most hawk species pluck the pigeon’s feathers as they eat the bird’s other organs. In addition, these birds of prey swallow the bones and the head of the pigeons.
Hawks have a total of four sharp talons, with three of them facing forward and one backward. The tips of the talons are incredibly sharp, as a dagger. Besides the claws, hawks have tendons on their feet that can easily lock in place.
So, these birds of prey use their talons and tendons to kill pigeons. The claws are for piercing the skin and flesh of pigeons. Meanwhile, hawks use their tendons to constrict the pigeons, which cuts their air supply. As a result, the pigeons die from a lack of oxygen.
However, sometimes sparrowhawks and red-tailed hawks may eat pigeons alive. This happens if the bird doesn’t protest too strongly. In this case, these birds of prey use their sharp talons and hooked beaks to tear the pigeon into small pieces while eating it.
Consequently, the pigeon eventually dies from organ damage and blood loss. Being opportunistic feeders, hawks eat dead pigeons and their eggs. However, this is rare.
In most cases, these birds of prey will only eat dead pigeons or their eggs when the food sources are scarce. Generally, hawks prefer eating the pigeons they catch and kill themselves.
How Do Hawks Hunt For Pigeons?
Hawks may utilize several different hunting techniques to catch pigeons before killing and eating them.
- One of these methods involves hovering over an area where the pigeons are commonly spotted. The hawk usually flutters over the air, and once it spots a pigeon, it pounces down with its talons to catch the bird.
- Sometimes, this bird of prey may choose to soar in the sky while riding on thermals. This enables the hawk to survey the ground below until it spots a pigeon.
- At other times, the hawk may sit in a tall tree, waiting for potential prey to appear. Once the hawk spots the pigeon, it swoops down and catches the unsuspecting target.
How Many Pigeons Do Hawks Eat Per Day?
These birds of prey can eat anywhere from one to eight pigeons a day. The number varies based on the hawks:
- Body weight
- Size and availability of the pigeons
Generally, young and growing hawks need to eat more than adults. Similarly, female hawks need more meat than their male counterparts because of their bigger size. This means they must eat more pigeons to meet their nutritional needs.
In terms of weight, the Ferruginous hawk is the largest hawk species. Therefore, it can eat as many as 8 pigeons a day, depending on their availability and size. This is because this hawk can consume as much as 180 grams of meat a day.
However, the cooper’s hawk, a smaller species, needs around 90 grams of meat per day, equivalent to around 3 pigeons.
Do Cooper’s Hawks Eat Pigeons?
Yes. In fact, these hawk species are primarily bird hunters. This makes them unwanted guests at bird feeders. They generally hunt and eat small to medium-sized birds, including:
Compared to other hawk species, these birds of prey love the taste of pigeons. As such, it is common to spot them devouring pigeons on downtown rooftops and ledges. But like other hawks, Cooper’s hawks usually capture pigeons with their feet and kill them through repeated squeezing using their tendons.
How To Stop Hawks From Attacking Pigeons?
If you keep pigeons, you might wonder, how do you protect them from repeated hawks’ attacks? Here are simple but effective tips to help you.
- Determine when the hawks are more active and avoid freeing your pigeons during those times
- Keep your pigeons in a predator-proof and secure enclosure with wire mesh
- Avoid overfeeding your pigeons to prevent them from becoming overweight, slow, and lethargic
- Use deterrents like reflective objects, owl decoys, bird audio devices, and hawk balls around your backyard to deter the hawks
- Always keep your pigeons’ feeders out of open spaces and avoid ground feeding
- Get rid of all hawk’s vantage or perch points around your home, such as trees standing alone or leafless branches
- If the attacks persist, get the services of a professional from wildlife control firms in your locality. These professionals are trained on how to eliminate these birds of prey.
Below, we will respond to commonly asked queries regarding hawks hunting, killing, and eating pigeons.
It is because some pigeons are way too heavy. Therefore, some hawk species may have difficulties flying off with the bird to eat it somewhere else.
Yes. Hawks do not spare baby pigeons in their hunt. This is because, compared to adult birds, baby pigeons boast a smaller wingspan and cannot fly as quickly to get away. Therefore, hawks eat them because they are an easy target.
Definitely, Roadside hawks can eat pigeons since they are carnivores. However, they mainly feed on giant insects like beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, and dragonflies.
Being predators and carnivores, hawks do eat pigeons. They eat them whole, whether dead or alive. Typically, these birds of prey use their sharp talons and strong tendons to kill and eat the pigeons. In addition, they use different hunting techniques.
Having said that, hawks can eat up to 8 pigeons per day based on their weight and prey availability. The good news? If you are a pigeon lover or owner, there are several tips to stop hawks from attacking your birds in this guide. On the flip side, these tips may not prevent the attacks totally.