Do Hawks Eat Rattlesnakes?

No animal is truly safe when it comes to high-order raptors.

And so, in the wild, even the most vicious predators like snakes are just another prey.

So if you are wondering – Do Hawks eat rattlesnakes?

The answer to this in short is..

Hawks eating rattlesnakes is nothing but a routine.

In this article we’re going to talk about the following 

  • Do hawks prey on snakes?
  • Will a hawk attack a rattlesnake?
  • Do red tailed hawks eat rattlesnakes?
  • Why does the venom of the snake not hurt the hawk? Ain’t it meant to be poisonous?
  • What about the rattlesnake – Can it kill a hawk?
  • Other predators of a rattlesnake

If you are interested in learning all about hawks and rattlesnakes then you’re going to love this article

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Do Hawks Prey On Snakes?

They most certainly do.

Typically, this involves a hawk swooping down and grabbing the snake from behind, within a few seconds.

The hawk then takes its surprised prey to its nest, where he devours the snake to its fill.

But why won’t the snake constrict that hawk, and not die?

Though, seemingly a brilliant plan, however, such a maneuver is physically impossible.


For starters, the snake was surprised and is now mid-air, completely out of its elements. 

Since it has no limbs, therefore, it uses its abdominal muscles against the ground to move upward.

But with no ground beneath, the option to lunge forward or suffocate the raptor is now off the table.  

Being tightly held between talons, it can’t even bite the bird. 

Therefore, it will die a quick death.

Okay, but why didn’t the snake fight on the ground?

As a predator, a snake rarely looks up out of caution. 

Besides, hawks are one of the sneakiest of predators.

Even you wouldn’t know if a hawk was around until it jumps on you.

But in the wild, being caught off-guard normally means, “Boo, you are dead”.

Perhaps, that’s why no one plays knock-knock jokes with the hawks.

Jokes aside, people assume hawks only eat the weak snakes.

And so, they ask: 

Will a Hawk Attack a Rattlesnake?

If an adult hawk locates a rattlesnake, it’s a dead snake crawling.

However, a hawk is quite smart and doesn’t creep up on rattlesnakes from behind.

Instead, it flies down and perches right in front of the snake.

Thereby, taking the lead in the dance of death, where:

  1. The hawk will fan out its feather, boasting its five feet of wingspan
  2. In response, the rattlesnake will rattle its tail in a warning and will puff up to look bigger and more formidable.
  3. The hawk will then hop or walk, essentially trying to divert the snake’s attention. 
  4. This will likely trigger the rattlesnake to snap open its mouth and display its 5-7 inch long, hollow fangs. And with the coiling motion, it will lunge forward.  

Normally, the hawk then hops onto the snake and ends up tearing apart the snake’s face, thereby killing it without mercy.

However, if the snake catches the hawk, it will inject its venom, killing or incapacitating the hawk.

And so, survival comes down to instinct and precision. 

Now you may be wondering, 

Why would a hawk risk death by confrontation and not dive-bomb on the rattlesnake?

Cause despite being prey to hawks, a rattlesnake is still quite a smart and capable enemy. 

Mainly for the following reasons:

  1. Being a pit viper, the rattlesnake has special pit organs at the back of its head, located between its eyes and nostrils. These enable a viper to see and track the heat signature of an organism, even during the night. 
  2. Rattlesnakes have a sharp sense of smell, combined with an ability to even taste a predator’s scent through their tongues. 
  3. The rattlesnake venom can cause multiple organ failures or death. 

Therefore, a rattlesnake is more than likely to be aware of a hawk’s approach.

And so, sneaking up on a rattlesnake is like an attempt at suicide.

Hence, hawks prey rattlesnakes from the front.

You may assume that a hawk will only eat rattlesnakes in extreme hunger.

And may ask,

Do Red-Tailed Hawks Eat Rattlesnakes?

Hawks, especially the red-tail hawks, are notorious for hunting the rattlesnakes as one of their favorite treats.

So much so, that these snakes avoid all places with red-tailed-hawks. 

So, when Priscilla from the movie “Rango” stated that Jake-the rattlesnake would visit their town because the hawk was dead, she was scientifically correct.

But have you ever wondered,

Why Does The Rattlesnake Venom Not Hurt the Hawk?

Well, because:

  1. Normally, venom is only lethal when injected. However, venom ingested through the stomach will likely degrade and not cause any harm.
  2. The venom of rattlesnakes is produced by the salivary glands and resides only in their heads. Since hawks avoid eating the head of the snake, therefore, they may ingest little to no venom.
  3. Hawks have been reported to eat only small sections of a venomous snake compared to a non-venomous one.

Technically, a human can also eat a snake for survival, if he only avoids the snakes head.

That said, a rattlesnake may still harm a hawk.

So, if you are wondering:

Can a Rattlesnake Kill a Hawk?

If the hawk is inexperienced, the rattlesnake will likely kill the would-be-predator.

You must understand that:

  1. A rattlesnake is still a predator and so, its body is built for attacks. It has folded needle-like fangs that snap open at 45-degrees. These allow controlled injection of venom.
  2. The rattlesnake venom maybe a cocktail of more than 100 toxic proteins, that may either incapacitate or may kill the hawk, even without injection. 

The deadliest known venom belongs to the Mojave Rattlesnakes. 

  1. Even the newborn rattlesnakes have potent venom, though lesser in quantities.
  2. The injection of venom usually causes neurotoxic effects with paralysis leading to respiration failure. And eventually, death. 
  3. A dry bite, with no venom, may still cause some lethal bacterial infections such as gas gangrene or tetanus.
  4. A rattlesnake is about 0.5-2meters in length and can constrict the hawk to its death

All such deaths have been reported where skeletons of hawks are found around half-eaten snakes.

The bites found on such hawks are typically 2-7cm deep with necrotic tissue edges.

And yet, despite having a wide range of preys like small birds, mammals, and reptiles.

Hawks still opt to hunt a rattlesnake.

They can even distinguish them from the Bull snakes that imitate the rattlesnakes.

But hawks are not the only predators of rattlesnakes. 

You will be surprised to learn about all those trying to make a meal out of a rattlesnake.

Want to know who are the predators of a rattlesnake? 

Let’s find out..

What Are The Predators Of a Rattlesnake?

Apart from hawks, other raptors like eagles and owls also eat rattlesnakes.

Sometimes even Turkeys. 

Others include:

  1. Feral cats 
  2. Raccoons and brown bears
  3. Foxes, Coyotes, and Opossums
  4. Snakes like Kingsnakes, Coachwhips, Coral snakes, Cottonmouths, Black snakes, and even Eastern Indigo.
  5. Alligators

Some only kill rattlesnakes if they feel threatened and may not necessarily eat them. 

  1. Spiders like black widows
  2. Hoofed mammals like deer, bulls, goats
  3. Bullfrogs and Salamanders like Hellbenders.

Some may not prey on rattlesnakes, but may eat a dead rattlesnake or a baby snake:

  1. Scorpions and Crabs
  2. Centipedes and Crayfish
  3. Giant water bugs
  4. Carpenter and Fire Ants
  5. Fish Gar and largemouth Bass 

Related articles about Hawks you may be interested in

Do hawks eat rabbits? 

Why do hawks circle? 

Hawk vs Vulture 

Do hawks eat crows?

Do hawks eat owls?

Can a hawk pick up a dog?

Do hawks eat foxes?

Final Words

Hawks especially red-tailed hawks eat rattlesnakes.

Hawks hunt most snakes by dive-bombing.

However, they hunt rattlesnakes by distracting, intimidating, and jumping to crush their faces.

A hawk will not eat the venomous part of a snake, rather the body.

But hawks are not the only rattlesnake hunters, as several others eat them, including other raptors and even other snakes too.

We at write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on is for educational purposes only. At we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.