Are there any animals that can scare a hawk? It turns out there are quite a few!
This article will introduce you to the hawk’s many predators and give you some hints about how to take advantage of a hawk’s fears to keep them away from songbirds in your backyard.
Natural Predators of Hawks
If you think about it for a moment, it is not hard to guess what the #1 natural predator of hawks is:
Hawks get eaten by bigger hawks.
Hawks are also potential prey of eagles.
Chicks and fledglings still in the nest are vulnerable to owls.
But there are also a number of animals that prey on young hawks at considerable danger to themselves.
- Squirrels may crawl into a hawk’s nest while the parents are out searching for other birds to feed their young. But if the squirrel lingers too long and is in the nest when either parent comes home, it risks being torn apart to be fed to the baby birds itself.
- Raccoons frequently make their homes in the notches of sturdy, tall trees, beneath the level occupied by hawks. Younger raccoons may venture up to the hawk’s nest to steal eggs or newly hatched chicks, but they expose themselves to the same risks as squirrels do. An adult raccoon is no match for a mature hawk in a fight.
- Opossums have two big toes that act like opposable thumbs, allowing them to climb trees with ease. If they find a nest unattended, they may raid it for eggs and hatchlings. But if they get caught, they are no match for adult hawks.
House cats wandering into the yard may capture and eat chicks that fall out of the nest.
Dogs may eat eggs and baby birds they find on the ground.
However, a hawk can kill a dog or a cat that weighs less than about 12 pounds (5.5 kilos), hawks may be bold enough to claw at and attack dogs that weigh as much as 65 pounds (30 kilos).
Hawks can easily kill unprotected kittens and puppies, and even adult toy poodles and Chihuahuas.
Also read: Different Types of Hawks (Buteos, Kites, Eagles, Accipiters)
If Hawks Aren’t Afraid of Most Predators, What Are They Afraid Of?
Even though hawks are not afraid of most potential predators, it’s not hard to keep them away from your backyard chickens, pond ducks, or songbirds.
Here are some of the devices backyard bird lovers use to protect smaller and less aggressive birds from hawk attacks.
Decoys can keep hawks out of your chicken run, off your duck pond, and out of your backyard bird habitat—at least for a while.
No hawk is going to risk getting into a fight with a large bird, even if it could win.
That’s because fighting takes energy. Injuries from fights could keep it from hunting for food for its young, finding a mate, or flying south for the winter.
The secret to success with decoys is to move them around or change them every two or three days.
If a hawk sees a motionless decoy in the same spot day after day, it will eventually begin to treat it like a landmark, rather than a potential competitor.
If you want your decoy to keep hawks away, you need to mount it on a pole that you can move to different places in the area you are trying to protect, frequently.
It helps if you can put up an animatronic hawk or eagle that flaps its wings or flashes red eyes. However, these devices will also scare away songbirds.
Hawks scan their territory from a high perch, swooping down when they see isolated, vulnerable, or sickly prey.
Their ability to catch other birds depends on a clear line of sight from their perch to their prey.
Surfaces that reflect sunlight, particularly any kind of reflective surface that moves in the wind, interfere with the hawk’s ability to find its target.
Hawks will fly away to hunt somewhere else if they see lots of bright, reflected sunlight.
It doesn’t cost a lot to create reflective features that confuse hawks.
Hanging balls of aluminum foil on strings from tree limbs, or making a sculpture out of used CDs will work.
Metallic wind sculptures may be a better fit with your garden design and also keep small birds and pets safe.
Shrubs and Bushes
Hawks rely on the element of surprise to attack small birds.
If small birds make themselves hard to see by nesting in or walking under prickly shrubs and bushes, hawks have to fly in closer to see them.
The hawks can’t build up the speed they need to capture smaller birds by surprise if they have to fly close to their prey.
Rose bushes and prickly hedges make a great cover for backyard birds.
Keeping taller trees trimmed is another way to reduce hawk attacks in your backyard.
Open canopies make it easier for smaller birds to detect the hawks so they can find cover before they are attacked.
Bird Feeders Under Cover
It’s only natural to place your bird feeder on a window or in an open area so you can watch the birds visiting your backyard.
The problem with window feeders and pole feeders on your patio is that they are easy for hawks to watch, too.
Providing some cover for birds visiting your feeder protects them from hawks.
Strobe Lights, Sound Cannons
Strobe lights and sound cannons will keep hawks out of your yard. They will keep people out of your yard, too, and your neighbors may object.
These methods are OK for protecting chickens and ducks if you live in a rural area or in a neighborhood where houses are built on large lots.
Also read: How Long Do Hawks Stay In One Area?
How to Keep Hawks Away from Chickens
If you keep chickens in your backyard, particularly if you have free-range chickens, you may have noticed that feeding time for your chickens has a way of becoming feeding time for the chicken hawks, too.
But keeping the hawk’s fear of its own predators in mind can help you keep your chickens safe.
Put out feed for your chickens under some kind of cover. This can be a small open shed, around shrubs, or in their pens.
Stay with your chickens when you are feeding them to keep the hawks away.
Or, if that is not possible, put up your decoy hawk while your chickens are feeding.
Take it down when your chickens have finished their main meal of the corn or grains you throw on the ground for them.
How to Keep Hawks Away from Ducks
It is easy to give your ducks a fighting chance at avoiding hawks.
Keep them inside at dawn and then again at dusk, when hawks do most of their hunting.
Let them out on their pond during the hottest part of the day, when hawks retreat to their nests.
If you have an animatronic decoy, program, it to be active when your ducks are outside, making sure it is turned off when they are inside. This keeps the hawk from getting used to the decoy’s motion.
How to Protect Dogs and Cats From Hawks
Hawks won’t eat any pet larger than a kitten or a puppy, but they can kill pets with their claws (not their beaks) dug into their necks.
If you live in an area where raptors such as hawks are common, putting your dog or cat into a hawk-proof vest will give them the protection they need to avoid serious injury from these aggressive birds.
It also helps to place reflective devices in your backyard and to keep trees trimmed.
How to Keep Hawks Off Koi Ponds
Hawks usually aren’t a problem for komi fish. In fact, your koi fish may even be safer with a hawk around since it will eat the natural predators of the fish, such as snakes.
If you want to stay on the safe side, put netting over your fish pond. This protects your fish from all kinds of predators, not just hawks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hawks as Predators
Q. What kind of hawk is most likely to attack backyard birds and pets?
A. In North America, the red-tailed hawk poses the greatest risk to smaller animals.
Red-tailed hawks mate for life, so if they attack animals in your yard one year, they will likely come back for more the next year.
Q. How big a dog can a hawk pick up?
A. Red hawks can fly away with animals that weigh as much as six and one-half pounds (about 3 kilos).
That’s more than the average Chihuahua weighs. It’s considerably more than some of the smallest cats weigh.
Hawks can easily carry off an adult Munchkin, Singapura, or American Curl.
But a hawk cannot necessarily carry a six-pound load very far. Most of the time, it will drop the pet, and the pet will die in the fall.
Q. Can I drive away a hawk with a BB gun?
A. No. In both the United States and Canada migratory bird laws forbid harming or interfering with the natural life cycle of all raptors, including hawks.
This means that you can prevent hawks from harming other birds, so they fly away, but you cannot harm a hawk or any other raptor to protect a bird you like better.
Q. What kind of decoy works best for keeping hawks away?
A. You will get the best results with an animatronic owl, especially if it is programmed to have flashing red eyes that activate at irregular, unpredictable intervals.
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