Do Hawks Eat Owls?

Are you wondering do hawks eat owls?

Well it’s a bit complicated

Here’s the answer

Though, both hawks and owls are high-order raptors. However, owls have more tricks up their sleeves. Therefore, if it comes to a clash between the two, owls are more likely to win. That said, hawks do hunt for weak owls including owl eggs, fledglings, the old and injured ones.

So you wouldn’t see a hawk just go out and eat an owl

They’ll look for an opportunity such as weak owls or injured ones

But we’re going to go deeper into this

What are you going to discover in this article?

Well there’s lots!

Here’s the topics you’re going to learn

  • Do hawks prey on owls?
  • Why are hawks afraid of owls?
  • Will a hawk kill an owl?
  • What predators eat owls?

Lots of interesting topics to talk about!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Related article – Are owls raptors?

Do Hawks Prey On Owls?

Only when they deem it possible. 

You see, no sane animal would eat owls as a staple diet.

And so, hawks are no exception.

Hawks will risk hunting an owl only if they have some advantage or absolute need to do so.

However, such disputes are usually of territorial nature, rather than competition for food.

Therefore, a hawk may prey on owls when the hawk:

  1. Has set up a nest nearby with eggs. And so, fighting the owl is the only way to protect its brood.
  2. Knows that there are no other resources to move on and survive.
  3. Perceives that owl is weak enough to be targeted, typically from an injury or old age. 
  4. Happens upon an unattended owl nest with eggs or better yet, owlets within. The young owls cannot resist hawk attacks and are easily taken.

Interestingly, hawks that normally hunt alone, may even form packs to prey on owls.

Since encountering an owl is both tough and risky.

Therefore, most hawks tend to avoid owls altogether.

Did you know that a single eagle has been reported to try and mob out an owl, even take an owl on a head-on fight.

However, a hawk mobbing an owl is not reported as much.

So, it is speculated that hawks are sensible enough to know their limits.

And so, compared to eagles, hawks would not even bother trying to mob out an owl.

They would rather leave the land to avoid owls altogether.

Hawks are very clever and know what to do and when to do certain things. Amazing!

Hawks preying on owls is quite an odd sight. 

Question is.. 

Why Are Hawks Afraid Of Owls?

Well, not just hawks, but the entire animal kingdom fears owls.

An owl sighting anywhere will cause unusual disturbance to the resident animals.

Most small birds would either leave or try to mob out the owl. 

“Wait, what makes the owls so scary?”

Well, owls are the freaks of the avian family. 

They are formidable predators, mainly because of: 

1. Silent Presence

If anything, an owl represents a silent death.

Though, most raptors like to surprise their victims.

Even so, an eagle still flutters, and a hawk produces swooping noise.

However, an owl makes neither. 

An owl has broad and bulky wings, designed to fly without a stutter or sound. 

Here’s a video showing you how quiet a owl flies

Honestly, it’s mind blowing!

It’s 1 min long

Furthermore, owls have patterned bodies, allowing them to completely blend in.

So, if it wasn’t for their occasional “hooting” or big broad eyes, owls would be invisible to the world.

2. Nocturnal Habits

Unlike other raptors, owls hunt during the night.

This makes the owls one of the most threatening predators as most animals are vulnerable in the dark.

Owls take away the small songbirds or knock them out to steal their eggs. 

Therefore, a community of birds will team up to chase away an owl, just so they may sleep peacefully for the night.

3. Swiftness

Compared to most hawks, owls are bigger, mightier, and faster. 

On average, an owl is roughly the size of an eagle, say 70cm in length and 1-3 kg in weight with a wingspan of about 1-2 meters.

This allows the raptor to exceed even 65km per hour speeds.

4. Gripping Talons

Nearly all birds of prey have four toes with three toes in the front and one in the back.

However, the owls have two toes arranged in the front and two in the back.

And so, the feet are more uniform functioning with an entirely different leverage system.

This permits an owl to have a far hefty grip to crush the prey within seconds.

Besides, the talons are sharp and long enough that an owl can even pierce a human skull.

4. Hooked Beaks

The owls have short, curved beaks, typically 1.5-inches in size.

The beak is hooked downwards giving the ability to tear apart prey. 

However, the owls lack teeth and tend to regurgitate out undigested materials such as hair, bones, and feathers.  

4. Sense of Hearing

Like most raptors, hawks are dependent on their vision for hunting.

However, an owl can even hear their prey scuttling away. 

Their ears function precisely as parabolic microphones work in a baseball stadium. 

5. Vision

Among birds, owls have the biggest eyes, roughly the size of human eyes. 

Since an owl eye is 10 times a hawk eye.

Therefore, an owl can receive and focus more photons than a hawk.

And so, they can see during the night. 

That said, owls find it difficult to take in sunlight.

Which is why they tend to sleep during the day.

6. Fear Tolerance

Having eyes that big also means less space for brains. 

Most of the owl brain is wired for enhanced sensing.

But they lack Dorsal Ventricular Ridge (DVR), which is present in other raptors and works like the mammalian amygdala.

The absence of this grey matter takes away the judgment power from owls. 

This enables the owls to tolerate fear, as they cannot perceive dying let alone losing from a fight.

Perhaps hawks avoid owls because they can weigh pros and cons, but owls cannot.

7. Territorial Behavior

Owls don’t make nests, rather they steal hawk or eagle nests. 

Otherwise, they use crevices or tree holes.

This usually means the first meal in their new home will be the family they just exiled. 

8. Hunting Method

A hawk or an eagle will grab the live prey and fly to its nest.


An owl doesn’t like struggling prey. 

Normally, an owl grabs and sits on its prey, while crushing the victim with its talons.

It tends to shroud the prey with its wings, to ensure no thrashing sounds escape from this struggle.

And so, the deed is done in absolute silence.

If the prey is bigger than the owl, then the owl will break its spine.

The paralyzed victim is then consumed in utmost stillness.

This speaks volumes of why a hawk fears an owl.

How amazing are owls right?

Beautiful birds with such amazing features!

Will a Hawk Kill An Owl?

Rarely, and only when the owl is weak or injured.

Though, hawks have been reported to hunt an owl, as a pack.

However, that seldom happens.

You see, hawks are opportunistic hunters.

Therefore, they will consume owlets or owl eggs whenever they can.

Also, a small owl such as a desert elf owl which is merely 5 inches tall, is an easy kill.

However, taking on a healthy great horned owl is but a dire mistake. 

Perhaps nature made hawks diurnal and owls nocturnal to split their realms.

Moreover, the owls are on the top of the food chain.

Thus, seeking other territories is far better than dying for one.

Unless that hawk is a typical Potterhead, head over talons for Hedwig – the snowy little sweetheart; he would rather leave than to stay, paralyze, and get eaten. 

Besides, even eagles tend to leave an owl alone.

Does that mean owls don’t have any predators? 

Let’s find out

What Predators Eat Owls?

In the wild, no one is truly safe.

Not even owls.

While predators mostly hunt for owl eggs, owlets, or injured owls.

Sometimes even the healthy ones fall prey.

The common owl predators include:

  1. Foxes, skunks, and weasels
  2. Prowling cats and bears
  3. Raccoons and opossums
  4. Sometimes even corvids or seals

Remarkably, owls are more susceptible to other owls. 

Most such fights are for territorial claims.

That said, humans have caused more damage to owls than any other predator, mainly through the destruction of habitats. 

How so?

Well, deforestation leads to owls concentrating in a single space, ultimately causing more encounters with other predators and territorial disputes. 


Hawks may fight with owls over territorial issues.

However, most hawks avoid owls by leaving the area.

It’s because owls are nocturnal predators with superior hunting tactics.

An owl can easily break a hawk’s spine and consume it.

Hawks do hunt owl eggs, owlets, or weak owls.

So it would be a very odd sight to see a hawk trying to kill an owl and eat it 

Related articles

Do hawks eat rabbits?

Do hawks eat crows? 

Do hawks eat rattlesnakes?

Can a hawk pick up a dog?

Do hawks eat foxes?

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