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Do Hawks Eat Dead Animals? (Scavenging Hawks)

Yes, hawks do eat dead animals. Hawks are carnivores, feeding on either dead animals or animals that they hunt themselves. In other words, they both scavenge and prey.

There’s a popular belief that hawks eat dead animals. But is this true? Do hawks scavenge for food?

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the habits of hawks and find out if they are scavengers or not. We’ll also discuss the benefits of scavenging for birds of prey. Stay tuned!

Do Hawks Eat Carrion (Dead Animals)?

Hawks do eat carrion (dead animals). Carrion-eating is when animals eat already dead animals[1]. Hawks do not only eat carrion, but they also do hunt for live prey. 

Hawks are carnivorous hunters and scavengers. Their diets consist solely of meat, as they can’t process plants.

While they’re very skilled hunters and prefer to eat live animals, they will consume dead animals if there are no other opportunities.

Do Hawks Eat Carrion (Dead Animals)

Why Do Hawks Eat Carrion? 

Because it’s an easy meal. They’re opportunistic hunters, eating what they can get their hands on. Hawks do not always have access to live prey. They will generally eat much less when they do find carrion, but it still is part of their diet and can be very beneficial in some situations.

How Do Hawks Find Food?

Hawks find their food by flying around, using their highly developed eyesight, and they go about it in two ways: scavenging and predation.

Hawks do not only eat animals they catch themselves. At times of possible food shortages, they must eat carrion (decaying flesh). 

They have superior eyesight, some of the best amongst all animals on the planet, and can hence very easily find food.

Scavenging

Scavenging is a big part of hawks’ diet. For many larger species of hawk, a large portion of their diet is made up of carrion and other dead animals. 

Sometimes these birds do kill more living prey, but this requires more effort on their part.

Predation

Though there are many cases of hawks eating carrion and other dead animals, they do not do so exclusively. They actually prey on animals for the most part.

Hawks prey on smaller living creatures: rodents, rabbits, snakes, lizards, insects and other birds are all part of the hawk diet[2].

Do Hawks Eat Roadkill?

Yes, hawks do eat roadkill. As they eat dead animals, they don’t care how they died. They just care about an easy meal. 

Many birds of prey eat dead animals, as do other animals such as coyotes and opossums. Hawks can be opportunistic feeders, and if a road-killed animal presents itself to them, it will not be passed up.

What Animals Will Hawks Scavenge From?

Hawks will scavenge food from animals killed by wolves, bears, coyotes, foxes, and other predators found in the same areas.

Hawks do not necessarily seek out dead animals, but will naturally come across them, as they share territory with many other predators.

These predators will often leave meat left on the carcass, as they don’t have the tools to clean them out. Hawks, on the other hand, do, as they’re typically smaller than most other predators.

Wolves

Wolves do kill other animals and do eat the meat they acquire. However, sometimes wolves do not finish off their prey; this is when scavenging by hawks can occur.

These carrion-eating hawks do not hunt but rather search for prey that has already been slain by other predators. 

This can give the carrion-eating hawks an advantage in finding food, due to the fact that they are not expending energy killing their prey.

Gray wolf, Canis lupus, eat meat in the winter forest.

Bears

Hawks do not hunt bears but they do scavenge from them. Bears are great hunters, and very large animals, which results in them killing large prey at times.

When a bear leaves something behind, it may leave some behind. Sometimes, bears do preserve leftover meat by covering it in moss, but not always[2]

Bears don’t realize that these birds eat their leftovers if they don’t care to protect their slain prey. Hawks also don’t consider that they are taking food away from the bears. The two creatures do not fight over leftover prey, but instead, both benefit from a kill.

bear eating eat on the rock

Coyotes

Coyotes are opportunistic hunters, meaning they don’t always slay their own food, just like hawks. However, they do prey on animals at times. 

While coyotes are known to eat animal carcasses left behind by other predators, they can’t always clean a carcass. Hence, when they’re done, hawks may come by and feed on whatever is left.

coyote in canada

Foxes

Foxes do not do a lot of scavenging; they prefer to catch their own prey. Hence, if they don’t finish their prey, there may be some leftovers for a couple of hawks.

fox eating

Are Hawks Carnivores?

Yes, hawks are carnivores. Hawks do not eat any plants or vegetation; their entire diet is made up of meat[3].

Their diet consists of dead animals, also known as carrion, and prey that they slay themselves.

Hawks are very skilled hunters and use their talons to grip onto small prey. Contrary to many other predators, they use their talons to kill, whereas falcons use their beaks.

What Do Hawks Eat?

Hawks are predatory birds, usually found in places with open fields for hunting. They eat a wide range of animals depending on the species, including mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds.

Hawks are most active during the day when they can enjoy plenty of light to hunt. They can’t see in the dark but have superior eyesight during the day. Hence, they hunt animals that are also active during the day.

Some of the most common animals that fall prey to hawks are songbirds, rodents, or small mammals.

Related: What do hawks eat?

Small Mammals

Small mammals are part of most hawks’ diets. Hawks prey or scavenge on the remains of small mammals for nutrients and calories.

Small mammals are often hunted for their abundant food resources in the form of flesh, marrow, and eggs, or sometimes leftovers from larger predators such as wolves or coyotes.

Small mammals such as these are very nutritious and packed with protein. 

A weasel, for example, is worth about 7% of the hawk’s body weight in meat. This makes them an important source of food that can be obtained easily if the hawk knows where to look.

Rodents

Rodents are one of the most abundant mammals in the world. They are extremely adaptable and live in nearly every habitat with an open food source. Their ecological importance is high, but due to their pest status, they are oftentimes (unjustly) killed, or at least trapped, or poisoned by humans.

Many hawks rely primarily on rats, mice, and other rodents for food.

Conclusion

Hawks are scavengers by nature. In other words, they’ll eat dead animals left by other predators. They do also hunt for food themselves and are very skilled hunters.

Hawks are smaller in stature and hence feed on smaller animals, such as small mammals, rodents, or birds.

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.