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Are Hawks Dangerous to Humans & Pets?

Hawks can be dangerous to people, if they get too close, and are dangerous to pets. They won’t attack people, unless threatened or provoked, but will attack smaller pets, such as rabbits or very small cats. Most encounters between hawks and people end with minor injuries, such as scrapes.

Hawks have a bad reputation for being dangerous to humans and pets.

But are they really as threatening as people think?

This article will explore the dangers hawks may pose and provide tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from any potential harm.

Do Hawks Attack Humans?

No, hawks do typically not attack people. They only do so if they’re threatened, or if they feel that their nest and eggs are threatened.

Hawks are sometimes portrayed as dangerous creatures that will attack anyone who strays into their territory. As that may be true, they’re not as aggressive as they’re portrayed.

Hawks are known to be aggressive in nature and are sometimes referred to as birds of prey.  Despite the potential dangers, most hawks will not attack humans and are in fact, quite docile in comparison to other members of their species.

Hawks are much more likely to attack an animal than a human being.

hawk on a mans head

Are Hawks Dangerous to Humans?

Hawks are usually not dangerous to humans, but they can be. While encounters between hawks and humans typically end with scrapes and cuts, they can spread diseases.

Hawks are both predators and scavengers [1]. But they don’t hunt humans. Hawks are wild animals, and like all others, they’ve learned to keep their distance.

While not normally a threat to humans, they will still attack when cornered or protecting their young. Furthermore, the sharp talons on the feet of hawks are used for hunting and are razor-sharp.

Hawk Attacks on People

Hawks are known for their sharp talons, piercing beaks, and excellent eyesight, which is all used in order to hunt prey. 

Attacks on people are rare, but it’s typically due to a person walking too close to a nest with eggs.

Although hawks are predators, they are not typically dangerous to humans, unless they are threatened or provoked. They have also been observed attacking people that are moving.

a hawk on its nest

Diseases Spread by Hawks

Hawks are not only dangerous due to attacks, but also diseases.

These birds of prey are more than just predatory animals. They are carriers of diseases that are potentially deadly to humans.

Hawks are known carriers of: 

  • Avian tuberculosis
  • West Nile virus
  • Candidiasis
  • Pasteurellosis
  • E. coli
  • Influenza
  • Erysipeloid

Are Hawks Dangerous to Pets?

Hawks are dangerous to smaller pets, as they may prey on them. Small rabbits and cats especially. Larger pets aren’t at risk. 

Hawks are predators. They prey on small animals. Hence, it’s natural that many pet owners are asking whether hawks are dangerous to pets.

The answer is: it depends on the animal.

As much as a hawk would love to feast on a big dog, they can’t. The hawks are too small. Depending on the size of your pet, it may be at risk.

Hawks are capable of carrying prey up that weighs as much as themselves. The most common ones are rabbits and other rodents.

The average hawk weighs between one to three pounds.

Related: How much can a hawk carry?

hawk catching prey

Do Hawks Attack Pets?

Yes, hawks do attack pets, though it depends on the size of the prey. They won’t attack big dogs but may snatch up a small rabbit.

While the majority of hawks are not going to attack your pets, it can happen. Hawks are hunters, and they’re very skilled.

Some pets are at risk, but far from all.

Can Hawks Pick Up Dogs?

No, a hawk cannot lift a dog. While large hawks are able to pick up prey weighing 5 lbs., a dog weighs anywhere between 10 to 1000 lbs. Hawks are simply not strong enough.

Related: Can a Hawk Pick Up a Dog?

Can a Hawk Pick Up a Cat?

Hawks are not able to pick up cats, as these adult felines are too large. However, kittens are a different story. Kittens, which are much smaller than the typical full-grown cat, can be picked up by hawks. 

They’re typically 5-8 inches tall, are much lighter than a fully-grown cat, and do not have fully developed claws, which makes them easier to catch.

Related: Do hawks eat cats?

How Often Do Hawks Attack People?

Hawks rarely attack humans. It only happens if they’re threatened, or someone goes too close to a hawk nest (especially during nesting season).

Being attacked by a hawk is extremely rare, but it can happen. However, these birds of prey aren’t very big.

The typical damage they’ll inflict is a few cuts and scrapes. If they manage the scrape your eye, or any other sensitive area, you should seek medical attention.

Red tailed hawk

Can You Kill a Hawk if It Attacks You?

While they are not normally aggressive toward humans, there are some circumstances where a hawk could attack if it feels threatened. 

So can you kill a hawk if it attacks you?

The answer is no, you can’t typically kill hawk. They are protected under The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA).[2] 

While the law allows for taking action against hawks that are attacking livestock or are posing a risk to airplane traffic, killing one just because it attacked you would be illegal.

When Do Hawks Attack People?

Hawks don’t just attack people. They need to be triggered, much like most other wild animals. They typically attack if threatened, cornered, of it you’re too close to their nest.

Hawks are most dangerous when they are nesting season, which runs between February and September. Most hawks lay eggs between April and May. During this time, the hawk is much more aggressive and protective.

They may also be looking for resources.

hawk nest

Nesting Season & Egg-laying

You are most likely to encounter an aggressive hawk during their nesting season, which typically is between February and September. When they’ve laid eggs, they’ll be even more aggressive.

They’re very protective of their nestlings.[3]

If you live in an area where hawks nest, or if you find yourself in such an area, you should be careful not to get too close. This could trigger an aggressive response from the hawks.

Food Resources

Hawks may attack, or get close to you if you have food around you. They’re opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of an easy meal.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, carrion, and some insects. When food resources are scarce they may go after bigger prey small pets. 

If you have small pets, or poultry, on your property, there’s a chance that a hawk will come by to hunt. 

There are several ways you can avoid this, such as using hawk deterrents or netting.

hawk scavenging

Mirrors & Windows

Hawks aren’t aware of their reflection. They’re territorial and will act aggressively toward other hawks. Hence, seeing their reflection can trigger an attack.

This is most commonly seen with mirrors or windows. A hawk flying by may catch a glimpse of its reflection and can be triggered to attack.

How Do Hawks Attack?

Hawks attack using high speeds. They’ll dive straight for their prey, surprising them. Afterward, they use their sharp beaks and talons to kill the prey.

The talons of a hawk are extremely sharp and strong, but also extremely flexible. This allows them to catch agile prey, such as mice or other small rodents. 

The beak of a hawk is also very sharp, allowing the hawk to cut through flesh easily in order to rip off chunks of meat for eating. Even though the beak is used in killing their prey, hawks use their talons when attacking much more often.

Before striking, hawks typically soar through the sky first, planning their attack. They’ll dive down, reaching incredible speeds, and snatch their prey. This allows them to strike quickly.

northern harrier hawk

How Fast Can a Hawk Fly?

In ordinary flight, they typically fly at a speed around 50 mph (50-80 kph), but when diving they can reach speeds up to 120 mph (190 kph).

Hawks dive when attacking prey, They utilize their speed to create an element of surprise, which limits their prey’s chance of escaping.

Related: How fast can a hawk fly?

How to Stay Safe From Hawk Attacks

While hawks don’t typically attack people, as stated earlier, they may still do so. Luckily, there are several ways to avoid this.

Here are a few tips to remember.

  • When a hawk is near you, your best bet is to avoid it entirely. Stay away from nests. They’re territorial birds, and should hence be left alone.
  • If a hawk has decided to hang around in your yard, you can use hawk deterrents to get rid of it. These include owl statues, ultrasound bird devices, and more.
  • When repellents don’t work, try intimidating the bird yourself. Make loud noises by banging pots and pans or blowing an air horn. This should scare the hawk away.
  • You should remove any food in your yard. This includes food scraps, small pets, or any feeder you use. If you’re doing ground-feeding (throwing food on the ground for your pet to eat), clean it up after.

Related: What are hawks afraid of?


Hawks are usually not dangerous to humans, but they can be. They can also be dangerous to small pets. This includes small rabbits, kittens, or poultry. Hawks won’t attack humans unless they feel threatened or provoked.

The best way to avoid a hawk attack is to leave them alone. Don’t get too close to them or their nest. They’re territorial and will attack anyone who gets too close.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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