If there is a hawk on your property and you leave it alone, how long will it remain your backyard guest?
While stalking their prey, hawks can be incredibly patient, often remaining in the same area for up to six hours.
In addition, they are known to be territorial and usually stay close to their nesting area.
Certain species of Hawk, like the red-shouldered hawk, have been observed using the same nesting sites for several years.
However, some hawks do migrate during winter, adding a layer of complexity to their habitat consistency.
How Long Do Hawks Stay In One Area?
Hawks are creatures of habit.
Most hawks live to be about 15 years old, and if conditions are favorable, they will stay in the same area their entire lives.
Hawks only move when they can no longer find food, their nesting area is destroyed, or they face repeated attacks from animals that eat them, such as eagles, owls, raccoons, opossums, and snakes.
In this article, we will also discuss humane, legal methods for getting hawks out of your yard to protect smaller songbirds.
Why a Hawk May Choose Your Yard for Its Home
Hawks, as well as owls, and if you live outside the Americas, maybe even falcons and kestrels, are attracted to locations that provide the necessities of life, food, water, shelter, and nesting space.
All hawks are carnivores.
They do not eat fruit, seeds, nuts, nectar, or pollen. But they may be attracted to locations where these plant foods are abundant to feed on the animals that feed on them.
If you make your backyard a favorable habitat for songbirds, eventually, some hawks will drop by to take one for a snack.
A bigger attraction for hawks, however, is a backyard filled with rodents.
Mice and rats nest in tall grass. Leaving your lawn unmoved will attract both rodents and hawks.
Rodents also favor woodpiles, piles of trash, and old brush. These backyard eyesores likewise can become homes for snakes, on which hawks also feed.
Hawks will also share the mealworms and suet you leave out for orioles, phoebes, gnatcatchers, blue jays, woodpeckers, and nuthatches.
Also read: What Do Hawks Eat?
Hawks like water features.
They very seldom drink water, since they get all the fluid they need from the blood of their prey.
They enjoy water features in hot weather as a place to cool off and bathe—and maybe catch a small bird or rodent on the same visit.
Hawks favor deeper water than smaller birds. They will splash in koi ponds and hot tubs left uncovered.
The sound of running water attracts them as an indication that fish and frogs may be waiting to be hunted.
Hawks look for locations with snags and dead trees, preferably with large holes in their trunks.
Snags give hawks a location to digest their meals from other birds, frogs, snakes, mice, and rats.
They will also use other objects that provide enough space to perch without being bothered by larger animals.
Hawks will rest on fences and deck railings. They may also perch on the roofs of your house, your garage, on deck railings, or on your garden shed.
The breeding season also affects their residence time.
Hawks may stay longer if they find an excellent nest location where they are comfortable with the surroundings and have had successful breeding efforts over several years.
Hawks prefer to build nests in the same quiet locations where they digest their food.
They look for locations that offer lots of materials they can use to build their nests, such as twigs, sticks, and bark.
They will also use a birdhouse if it has an opening at least 1 inch (25 mm) wide.
Hawks prefer quiet settings. They can hear their prey better if they do not have background noise from street traffic, children playing, or noisy workplaces.
They also like natural settings. They avoid formal gardens and backyards that are carefully landscaped.
As long as you provide these essentials, hawks will frequent your backyard their entire lives.
They become a permanent fixture of your landscape. Having hawks in your backyard does not mean that you won’t have any songbirds at all, but you may have to work harder to keep them there.
Having hawks in your yard is a confirmation of a well-managed habitat.
You have to have taken care of your yard in ways that encourage other birds, small animals, and insects for hawks to appear.
If you like having hawks around, just make sure they have these essentials. You do not have to do any supplemental feeding.
You do not have to build them a birdhouse. They will take care of these essentials on their own if the basic necessities of life are available to them.
But if chickens are part of your backyard bird-watching plan, or if you would prefer that hawks live somewhere else, here is what you need to do.
Also read: Do Hawks Attack Humans?
What to Do If You Don’t Want Hawks to Stay at Your Location
In the northern United States and Canada, hawks fly south for the winter.
As migratory birds, they are protected by US and Canadian federal law. You cannot shoot, trap, or poison them.
You cannot interfere with their nesting activities or cause them to harm in any way.
In the southern United States, hawks have become a year-round backyard fixture. They may “migrate” locally, but you will see them again and again. Even so, federal laws are interpreted to protect them as well.
There are a number of things you can do, however, to discourage hawks from staying on your property.
Get a Guard Dog
All but the tiniest miniature dogs are fearsome potential foes to hawks. Great Pyrenees, in particular, keep your yard safe for songbirds.
The only dogs that are not compatible with backyard songbirds are the bird dogs.
They instinctively keep birds in the air so they can be shot, or in the case of a passing hawk, so they can be caught.
Also read: How Much Weight Can a Hawk Carry?
Provide Cover Over Your Bird Feeder
Hawks like to swoop down on other birds as they are feeding. You can prevent this by placing a cover over the feeder.
That fraction of a second the hawk takes to slow down and maneuver into position can be just enough time for a songbird to escape.
Dome covers protect feeders against hawks and keep bird seeds dry.
Window feeders require hawks to slow down just enough for songbirds to fly away.
You can protect ground-feeding birds by putting out their food next to a hedge of roses or thorny bushes or underneath a tree with low-hanging branches.
Hawks sometimes station themselves in a line of sight to a birdhouse, waiting for baby birds to take their first flight.
Making sure your birdhouse has an awning over its opening gives baby songbirds just a little more protection.
Also read: What to Put Under a Bird Feeder?
Try the Predator versus Predator Approach
Hawks prey on smaller birds, but larger raptors prey on them. Hawks will avoid locations where they see owls. So, make sure they see an owl!
You can buy an animatronic owl that makes screeching noises at random intervals and flashes red eyes at night.
At least for a few days, it will keep hawks out of your yard (along with many other birds).
The hawk may find another hunting ground and leave your birds alone.
However, if you use the same decoy bird continuously, the hawk will lose its fear and start hunting in your backyard again.
Install Kinetic Sculptures
A moving sculpture on your deck or in your yard will make a hawk disoriented.
It won’t be able to use the sculpture to triangulate a path down to the songbirds you want to protect.
It’s OK to use kinetic sculptures of a single kind of metal or painted a single color as part of your program to keep hawks away.
A garish, colorful, highly reflective kinetic sculpture would be even better, but you can use the artwork you like best.
Make Some Noise
Scientists have found that predatory birds use their sense of hearing to create a three-dimensional map of their path to their prey.
While some predators rely on their ability to hear high-pitched ultrasonic noises made by their prey, hawks listen for sounds lower than the lowest bass notes humans can hear, about 8 Hz.
That’s lower than the lowest note on a piano.
Because low pitches travel on long soundwaves, it is easy to interfere with them. Just about any kind of noise will distract a hawk, making it difficult to hone in on its prey.
Wind chimes distract hawks. So does any kind of clinking and clanking, such as you could achieve by hanging used CDs or flatware from a tree limb or from the eaves of your house.
Noisy pets also shoo hawks away, although you and your neighbors may get annoyed with them, too.
Shoo Hawks Away After They Catch a Songbird
Another thing you can do to keep hawks out of your yard is to shoo them away after you see them catch a bird.
Hawks need to rest to digest their food.
If you harass them so they cannot rest on your property, they will find another place to roost—and maybe they will stay there.
Hang Up Flashy Tape
Reflective tape keeps hawks from getting their bearings for swooping down on songbirds.
A product called Nite Guard Repellent Tape also makes a grating sound that drives hawks away when it blows in the wind.
If You Keep Chickens, Add a Rooster to Your Flock
Roosters are highly protective of hens.
They protect hens against hawks, cats, dogs, raccoons, opossums, and other predators. They may take a peck at you if they do not know you.
A rooster will make a high-pitched sound to alert other birds when a hawk is present.
The rooster may or may not charge the hawk (if he does, he may not survive), but he will cause enough disturbance that the hawk will hunt somewhere else.
The downside of keeping a rooster is that he can be very noisy.
Roosters crow at the first rays of morning light, which they will see an hour or more before sunup. They also do not get along well with squirrels or cats.
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