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Why Do Hawks Screech & What Do Hawk Calls Sound Like?

Hawk vocalizations are known as “calls”. These include screeching, mating calls, and other vocalizations. Hawks typically screech when they’re flying to assert dominance or to claim their territory.

Hawks make a variety of calls, sounds, and vocalizations.

But what does that mean and why do they screech?

In this article, we’ll discuss these questions. We’ll discuss what these sounds mean when hawks make them, and what they sound like (recordings included).

What Do Hawk Calls Sound Like?

Hawks calls sound like a hoarse, screaming, “keeaaar”. They typically make calls when soaring, either to defend their territory or when asserting dominance. These calls typically last 2-3 seconds.

Hawks fly with their wings spread wide and let out a distinctly piercing noise that sounds like “kree kree”. They do this when they’re flying or fighting. 

By using these calls, hawks can let other hawks in the area about their location. They’re often signaling to other hawks that they should keep out. The hawks that hear the sound know not to enter the territory.

Hawks also let out a slight chirp when they’re mating.

Recording of a Hawk Screech

What Sounds Do Hawks Make?

Hawks produce two different types of sounds, screeching and repetitive calls. Each has its own use case.

Screeches are typically used when hawks are soaring. This may be when they spot prey, or to warn intruders. Every species of hawk has a unique screeching call. 

A screech can also be referred to as a cry.

Repetitive hawks-sounds are different from the hawks screeching. These are short bursts of noise done in short intervals.

Different species produce different sounds. Some hawks screech (red-tailed hawks) while others produce the repetitive call (Cooper’s hawks).

What Sound Does a Red Tail Hawk Make?

The red tail hawks’ call is fairly recognizable. Some describe it as a loud, high-pitched scream. These are the typical screeching that people associate with hawks.

It’s a long drawn-out call that goes on for around 3 seconds and usually ends with the hawks’ signature screech[1]. The hawks can make their calls of distress or warning. If red-tailed hawks want to tell other hawks where they are, they may make a screaming call.

When hawks are in their nests, they’re usually quiet in order to not give away the location of the nest. They will sometimes do a quick chirp toward their nestlings.

Recording of Red-Tailed Hawk Sound

What Sound Does a Cooper’s Hawk Make?

Cooper’s hawk mostly produces a loud repetitive call that lasts for 2-5 seconds. It’s often described as a grating sound, or “cak-cak-cak”.

Both males and females will give off this sound. It’s often related to nest defending when another hawk or predator gets too close. It’s also used during courtship.

The call from Cooper’s hawks is also described as a cackling.

A Cooper’s hawk is a raptor known for its speed and agility in the air. It has short broad wings and a long tail which aids it while flying. 

This bird of prey appears bluish-grey above and white below, with a banded chest and brown or red eyes. Its shrill screams or whistles have been described as “scree”.

Recording of Cooper’s Hawk Call

Why Do Hawks Screech?

Hawks typically screech when they’re soaring, to defend their nest against intruders, when they’re in pain, as an alarm, or during courtship.

Hawks Screech at Intruders

Hawks have a shrill cry that they use to communicate with each other. This is often let out toward intruders. Hawks emit this sound when there is an intruder around their nest or in the territory of their prey.

Reasons hawks screech at intruders include:

  • To warn others about the presence of an intruder
  • To tell others to leave hawks’ territory or their prey alone
  • To scare off the intruder
hawk screeching while in flight

Screeching in Flight

One reason hawks screech in flight is that they’re demonstrating their territory to other hawks and predators. 

By using this call, hawks can let nearby birds and animals know that this area belongs to them and they should stay away.

Hawks are territorial birds, and won’t let other birds of prey enter their territory if it can be avoided. Hence, they screech.

Red tailed hawk

Screeching in Pain & Alarm

In times of pain and alarm, hawks will scream to let others know of the danger. This may be because they’ve been attacked or otherwise hurt.

Hawks are preyed upon by other birds of prey, such as eagles or falcons. As these other birds attack a hawk, it’ll let out a screech.[3]

Hawks are birds of prey, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any enemies. Common predators include owls, eagles, wolves, foxes, vultures, and other predators and scavengers.

Related: What eats hawks?

two hawks fighting

Do Hawks Screech When Hunting?

No, hawks don’t make any noise when they’re hunting. This is a common misconception. When they hunt, they’re completely silent, as their hunting techniques rely on the element of surprise.

Hawks don’t make sounds while they are hunting. This wouldn’t make sense, as it would let prey know of imminent danger.

When hawks screech during flight, it’s to assert their dominance and defend their territory.

What Do You Call the Sound a Hawk Makes?

Sounds from hawks are known as calls. There are many different types of calls. This typically depends on the species and the reason for the call.

Most species have their own type of call. This is not exclusive to hawks, but to all birds. Simultaneously, they have different calls for different occasions, such as territorial calls, calls of pain, or courtship calls.

The difference between them is pitch and repetitiveness.

Do Hawks Screech at Night?

Hawks are diurnal and typically sleep at night. If you hear a hawk screeching at night, it’s most likely because it’s being attacked.

Otherwise, what you heard was most likely not a hawk, but some other nocturnal bird.

There are a few select hawks that are up at night, but these are not as common as diurnal hawks.

Related: Do Hawks Hunt at Night?

Conclusion

Hawks screech for various reasons, including to defend their territory, signal a warning, or show aggression. These screeches are also known as calls or cries. Each species has its own form of call, whether it be repetitive, or a hoarse scream.

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.