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How Fast Can a Hawk Fly?

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Hawks can fly about 50 mph in ordinary flight but can reach upwards of 120 mph when diving through the air. They dive to attack prey. The speed allows them to easily catch prey.

Have you ever wondered how fast a hawk can fly? 

Hawks are very fast, capable of reaching speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. However, they’re beaten by many, such as the falcon, eagle, and others.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why hawks are such amazing flyers and discuss some of the natural adaptations and methods they use to fly. We’ll also discuss what they use their speed for.

Ordinary Flight Speed

Hawks’ ordinary flight speed ranges from 20 to 50 mph.

Hawks are known for their aerodynamic build, and how they can soar through the air without much effort. However, they’re not the fastest birds on the planet.

Flight speeds of raptors (hawks) range from 20  to 50  mph (32 to 80 km/h). By comparison, the smaller falcons typically fly at speeds around 60 mph, and the larger eagles can reach speeds of 100 mph.

Dive Speed

A typical hawk’s dive speed can reach upwards of 120 mph. An average dive from a height of 10 meters reaches the aforementioned speed. 

In comparison, peregrine falcons have been recorded diving at 200 mph (321 kph).

Hawks can reach their top speed when diving. Their acceleration increases up until the point that they catch their prey with their claws.

Top Speed of a Hawk

The typical top speed of a hawk is 120 mph (190 kph). This happens when they dive for prey. 

Hawks rarely reach their top speed, as they do require some runway. However, when they do reach it, no prey can escape.

While hawks are fast, they don’t come close to the peregrine falcon, which is the fastest animal on earth at 242 mph (390 kph).

hawk flight posture

Flight Speed of Species

The speed of species is an important aspect of how they interact with their environment, as well as how they interact with other animals around them.

Different species use different methods to find food and avoid competitors, predators, and other dangers. 

The ability of these species to hunt or flee helps them survive. Let’s take a closer look at each of the different hawk species’ flight speeds.

Bird SpeciesTypical Flight Speed
Red- Talked Hawk50 mph
Sparrow Hawk30 mph
Cooper’s Hawk50 mph

How Fast Can a Red-Tailed Hawk Fly?

A red-tailed hawk can fly up to 120 mph when diving but is typically cruising around 50 mph during ordinary flight[1].

It has been estimated that the howl of the red-tailed hawk is one of the loudest bird calls on Earth. The birds have been recorded howling at over 100 decibels[2], a level that is comparable to a howling wolf.[3]

These hawks can be found in most of North America. They’re the most common hawks found in this area.

Red tailed hawk

How Fast Can a Sparrow Hawk Fly?

A sparrow hawk can typically fly 30 mph (50 kph) during ordinary flights. They are the smallest known raptors in Europe, with a length of 9-13 inches (22-34 cm) and weight about 3.9-6.9 ounces (110 to 196 grams). 

Due to their size, they cannot sustain flight over a long distance or extremely high speeds. However, despite this shortcoming, they are capable of jumping into the air and flying quickly over short distances.

A sparrow hawk has large eyes that are adapted for seeing prey in low-light conditions. Their binocular vision (the ability to see depth) is excellent for hunting small birds, insects, frogs, and mice at dusk or during the night. They can also hunt in broad daylight with great success by using their superb eyesight to spot prey while flying over open areas.

Sparrow Hawk

How Fast Can a Cooper’s Hawk Fly?

The Cooper’s hawk is typically seen flying around 50 mph. It’s difficult to measure their speed, as they typically fly in between dense vegetation when they hunt.

They’re native to North America and can be found from southern Canada to Mexico.

coopers hawk

How Fast Can a Sharp-Shinned Hawk Fly?

A sharp-shinned hawk can fly between 16 to 60 mph. This hawk is most common in America.

They’re small and long-tailed hawks, with short, rounded wings. Their tail is square-tipped. Females of this species are significantly larger than males.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Flight Speed Compared

Hawks are known for being fast fliers, but are they faster than other birds? 

Here is a comparison between hawks and other animals to better illustrate the hawk’s flight ability.

Bird SpeciesPotential Maximum Flight Speed
Crows60 pmh
Falcons200 pmh
Eagles80 mph

Hawk vs. Crow

Crows can fly faster than hawks, yet hawks can dive faster than crows.

Hawks have been observed diving at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour. When they fly regularly, they typically fly between 40 and 50 mph. They can maintain this kind of speed for periods of about 10 minutes. 

Crows are relatively faster birds in flight. They can fly at speeds of up to 60 mph when necessary, but their normal cruising speed is much slower, around 25 to 32 mph[2]. When diving, they can reach up to 70 mph, which is slower than a hawk.

While both birds are built for flight, crows have shorter wings than hawks so they can’t soar in updrafts for extended periods of time.

crow flying

Hawk vs. Falcon

Falcons are faster than hawks, both in terms of ordinary flight speed and diving speed.

A peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on earth. It can reach speeds of up to 200 mph when diving for prey. In comparison, hawks seem slow with their 120 mph dive speed.

Hawks and falcons are both birds of prey, but they have some very different characteristics. Hawks usually hunt for smaller animals while falcons hunt for larger game like ducks and geese. This is because hawks are typically smaller. 

There’s an enormous difference in the relative speed of these two flyers.

peregrine falcon

Hawk vs. Eagle               

Eagles are generally faster, stronger, and bigger than hawks, both in terms of regular flight speed and dive speed.

The main difference between hawks and eagles is their size. Eagles are large birds of prey, while hawks are small birds of prey.

Hawks can reach speeds up to 50 mph (80 kph). For comparison, the golden eagle can fly at speeds around 80 mph (129 kph). However, eagles typically cruise through the air at speeds around 28-32 mph (45-50 kph).

When it comes to diving speed, the golden eagle also comes out on top, reaching about 200 mph (322 kph), compared to the 120 mph of a red-tailed hawk.

Golden eagle

How Do Hawks Use Their Flight?

Hawks use their high-speed flight abilities to hunt. They can spot medium-sized prey from 1 mile away while moving at high speeds.

Hawks, like all birds, have wings. They use their wings to create lift, which is how they fly. But how do they use this flight?

They hunt. Hawks use their flight capabilities to soar through the air, where they can easily spot prey. Hawks also have great eyesight, which again allows them to hunt from the sky.

As they dive down, reaching incredible speeds, they use the element of surprise to catch their prey. They’ll grip onto them with their claws, sometimes even knocking them out due to the sheer force of the impact.

Birds with telemetry on them have been known to fly 125 miles without landing.

What Is the Fastest Bird in the World?

The fastest bird in the world is the Peregrine Falcon[3]. It can reach speeds of up to 200 mph (390 kph) when diving. 

Peregrine Falcons are birds of prey. They hunt fresh meat and usually kill their prey with a blow that breaks the bones of their skull and its spine. 

Peregrine Falcons are in steep decline because of the use of certain pesticides in their habitats. However, they’re still the fastest birds, and animals, on the planet.

Conclusion

Hawks can fly at speeds of up to 20-50 mph during ordinary flight, while they can reach up to 120 mph when diving. They’re able to snatch prey from the ground or flight. 

Even though they’re fast, they’re not as fast as many other birds on the planet.

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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