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What Is a Group of Hawks Called? (Hawks’ Social Behavior)

A group of hawks can be called a flock or a kettle. The term “kettle” is used to describe a larger flock of hawks that are circling using thermals. They do this when migrating.

Hawks are social animals. They typically live in pairs but do sometimes form larger flocks.

Collective terms for birds can sometimes be confusing and bizarre. Especially as many of these terms can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

In this article, we’ll discuss different names for groups of hawks, when each is used, and why they’re used.

What Is a Group of Hawks Called?

A group of hawks is most commonly known as a kettle. This refers to a group of hawks that are circling.

While hawks typically only live in pairs, they do sometimes form larger groups. Here are the most common names used for these groups:

  • Kettle
  • Cast                
  • Boil
  • Flock

In the modern world, a group of hawks is typically referred to as a kettle[1]. The term “kettle” was then first recorded as a collective noun for hawks in the early 17th century.

The term “flock” is a general collective noun for groups of birds and is not exclusive to hawks.

The term “boil” is also used to describe a group of hawks. This term is a vernacular term that is thought to have been used in the West Country of England. The word “boil” comes from a Middle English word that means to “soar like a hawk”.

In North America, a group of hawks can also be referred to as a cast.  This term was first used in 1743 and comes from the Latin word which means “to throw violently”.

Flock of migratory hawk

Why Is a Group of Hawks Called a Kettle?

Hawks are called a kettle, as they resemble something boiling in a kettle as they circle tightly using the rising air in a thermal.

Collective nouns for animals can sometimes be confusing and bizarre. This is often due to the terms being coined in the Late Middle Ages.

These are then interpreted differently in different languages and are passed down.

Many group names are broadly the same across several languages – a group of wolves is called a pack in English, anleit in German, la meute in French, and so on.

However, group names for animals are not universal across languages. In English, the group name for wolves is a pack, but group names aren’t a pack in Russian but a horde. A group of fish is a school in English, but they’re a shiver in Russian.

hawks flying in circle

When Can You See Hawks in a Kettle?

You can see a kettle of hawks when they migrate. While they typically live in pairs, they form larger flocks when they’re migrating.

Hawks are social. They live in pairs (another name for a group of birds) most of the time but form larger flocks before migrating.

They group together for safety and security.[2]

A group of hawks will be more effective at migrating than single, or pairs of, hawks. Hence, they group up.

Related: Why do hawks circle?

What Kind of Hawks Fly in Groups?

Migratory hawks fly in groups. This includes species such as the broad-winged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, northern harrier, and more.

Migrating in groups allows the group to fly more efficiently. They utilize the airflow, and can fly very far in a single stretch.

These group flights prevent muscle fatigue and enhance energy conservation. In other words, the group of hawks streamlines their flight by utilizing group dynamics to reduce air resistance.

Related: Do Hawks Fly In Groups?

Do Hawks Live In Groups?

Hawks live in pairs, not in groups, with the exception of nestlings. When hawks’ eggs hatch, they’ll live with their offspring until they’re strong enough to find their own mate.

Hawks don’t live in large groups, but they are social animals. They live with their mate and even hunt together.

They only form larger groups before migration.

Do Hawks Live In Pairs?

Several species of hawk, including harriers and kites, are known to mate for life. They live and hunt together, as a pair.

This provides them with several advantages, such as improved hunting capabilities and additional safety. They can better take care of each other and their offspring.

In some cases, a pair may stay together from one breeding season to the next and only stay together while they are raising young.

pair of hawks in a tree

Do Hawks Hunt Together?

Hawks can both hunt alone or together. They can both hunt with their mate, or with other hawks, as this enhances their ability to hunt larger prey.

Hawks typically live in their own nest, with the exception of mating season, where a male and a female will share a nest.

During hunting, this is a different story.

These birds of prey will team up, either in groups of two or more, and will work together to catch prey. When hunting for larger prey, they’ll surround their prey to prevent it from escaping.[3]

Not all hawk species hunt in groups. Some hawks prefer to hunt alone. The Harris’s hawk is famous for its intelligent hunting behavior. This intelligence also makes them easier to train.

Harris Hawk in the northeast of Ecuador

Do Hawks Mate for Life?

Yes, hawks do mate for life. They’ll find a mate and stay with this mate until they die, or until their mate dies. They hunt with their mate and will raise their offspring together. 

Hawks are considered social animals because they live in pairs. However, they stay separate for most of the year, living in different nests.

The hawks will live in the same area and will protect their territory together.

During nesting season, they’ll share a nest, as they have to protect the eggs and nestlings.

If a hawk loses its mate, it’ll typically seek out a new one.


A group of hawks is typically referred to as a “kettle”. This term is used to describe a group of circling hawks. They circle using the rising air from thermals, a natural phenomenon that can be described as a column of wind.

Hawks form groups when they’re migrating, as they typically live in pairs. Some hawks do also hunt in groups.

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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