Do Hawks Attack Humans?

Being the smartest of raptors, hawks don’t waste energy on fights that they may potentially lose. And so, most hawks stay away from humans let alone attack them. That said, hawks are extremely protective of their young ones.


If a hawk deems a human threatening to its hatchlings, it will certainly attack a human. 

Still, the majority of hawks tend to avoid human-populated areas, altogether. 

What are you going to learn in this article?

You’ll discover the following

  • Do hawks go near humans?
  • Will a hawk attack you?
  • How does a hawk attack a human?
  • How dangerous are hawks? Things you need to know!
  • Is it okay for you to kill a hawk?

So if you’re interested in everything about hawks and humans then you’re going to love this article!

Sound good?

Let’s get started!

Will Hawks Come Near Humans?

Usually, not.


Because a hawk has cranial nerves arranged to provide a superior judgment ability. 

You see, a typical human is about 1.6m tall and weighs approximately 70kg.

In contrast, an average hawk can reach as much as 0.5m in height and 3kg in weight

An average human is three times the size of a hawk and twenty-five times its body mass.   

The hawk is aware of this disparity between human size and its own.

Therefore, it knows that it may be unable to cause significant damage to a human.

So, a typical hawk is not likely to  attack humans without any reasons

Besides, a hawk cannot lift more than 2kg of weight.

So, it is physically impossible for a hawk to fly away with a human or even a child for that matter.


Hawks prefer open spaces without much human population. 

That said, if your home is offering some sort of food, then a hawk may frequently visit your place.

These food resources mainly include:

  1. Small songbirds foraging at the backyard bird feeders.
  2. Garden voles, moles, rodents.
  3. Lizards, insects, and frogs.
  4. Small pets like chihuahua pups, kittens, rabbits, or parrots.
  5. Domestic chicken or ducks.

Will Hawks Attack You?

They may if they consider you a threat to their offspring.

Normally, hawks are quite rational birds.

But during the breeding season, they experience a surge in testosterone levels.

This increase makes them bolder and more aggressive than usual.

So much so that,

It’s almost as if a nesting hawk loses its natural fear of humans as well as its rationality.

In fact, nesting hawks become so violent that all birds avoid flying around their nest.

Even crows that normally mock these raptors, try to evade a breeding hawk.

Therefore, if a hawk has set up a nest nearby, and you are just walking around that region, chance are the hawk will attack you. 

Now, most people react by saying, “But I meant no harm.” Or, “I don’t look much threatening.”

But you do.

To a hawk, you are a giant trying to rob the raptor of its eggs or its fledglings. 

Even your three-year-old toddler is bigger than that hawk.

And so, a nesting hawk may even attack your babies to protect its own.

Therefore, most hawk attacks are reported in the breeding season, from early spring to late July. 

Breeding aside, hawks can attack for other reasons as well, including:

  1. Mirrors showing the hawk its reflection. Since hawks are extremely territorial, they may attack your windows thinking it’s some other hawk.
  2. Food Resources like small birds and rabbits. So, a hungry may attack you to get their food.
  3. Migratory Season. This may be because the hawk that landed at your place has a temper or is too hungry.

Or perhaps, traveling long distances without much sleep turns a hawk into a cranky old man. 

Whatever may be the cause, the hawk is still way smaller than a human. 

If a hawk does attack a human – how do they do it?

Let’s find out..

How Does a Hawk Attack a Human?

Typically, it involves some dive-bombing and only a few scratches.

Well, a hawk loves the element of surprise.

It dives from behind and grabs on the unaware victim in its talons.

Then, squeeze the life out of it, and fly away to some secure place to eat it.

Of course, this method may not work for a larger victim such as humans  

So, for large prey, a hawk sits on the victim, crushing it under its weight as well as with its talons.

The hawk then neatly plucks out fur or feathers from its target, by furthering the trauma.

And then, devours the half-alive prey.

It’s almost as if a hawk is a serial killer just like Dexter Morgan, or Hannibal Lector.

(Calm and excruciatingly brutal.)

Anyways, neither of these methods are applicable to humans. 

So what does a hawk do to a human?

A hawk tries to scare away humans by jumping from behind. 

That sudden jump may scare the bejesus out of you. 

Regardless, a hawk is still a raptor with sharp talons, especially its first two toes.

So, if a hawk decides to be more than scary, or you persist despite its warning; it may even leave a scratch or a laceration.

However, a hawk cannot break a human’s neck or kill him.

How Dangerous Are Hawks?

This varies from case to case.

Apart from the type of hawk, it also depends on the potential diseases that a particular raptor may be carrying around.

So, the main deciding factors are given as:

1. Hawk Species

If you are hit by a goshawk, you are likely to end up with lacerations.

However, if it’s a sparrow hawk, then you may be off the hook with just a few bomb dives.  

Here are a few of the most reported hawks associated with attacks on humans:

Type of Hawk Scientific Name Average Body Mass Common Habitat Injuries/ Trauma  Remarks
Red-Tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 1.1Kg Woodlands, plains, roadsides, mountains. Mainly bomb


The most common hawk attacking humans.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 1.5Kg Forested plant communities. Laceration on the neck. The most lethal human attacks.
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii 0.39Kg Woodlands and forested mountains Swelling or lumps. Attacks mostly on pets and chickens.
Sharp-Shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus 0. 15Kg Deep Forests Mostly bomb dives. The least common attacks on humans.
Swainson’s hawk Buteo swainsoni 1.7Kg Grasslands Mainly scratches.  Only a few cases are reported.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 0.22Kg Woodlands and gardens Loss of a chicken, or birds at backyard feeders. Incidents mainly around birdfeeders.
Harris Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus 1.17Kg Semiarid areas Lacerations. Only a few cases are reported.

2. Diseases And Infectious Agents

Such diseases may spread to you or to your pets either through direct contact or indirectly via hawk droppings. These include:

Disease Cause Target Symptoms
Avian Tuberculosis Mycobacterium Bird gastrointestinal system. Diarrhea, polyuria, anemia, dull plumage. 
Pododermatitis Multiple microbes esp. E.coli, Proteus. Captive birds Degenerative foot condition.
West Nile Virus Flavivirus Both humans and birds. Spreads via mosquitos. Head tremors, anorexia, seizures, blindness, sudden death.
Aspergillosis Aspergillus fumigatus Both birds and humans. Nodular lesions, tracheal abscesses, irritation.
Candidiasis Candida sp. Birds and humans. Oral lesions, vomiting, decreased appetite, breathing difficulty. 
Pasteurellosis Pasteurella (Bacteria) Feline and human skin Irritation, bronchitis, septicemia, pneumonia.
Avian Influenza Influenza Type A virus Birds. But may spread to humans. Fever, cough, muscle aches, death.
Erysipeloid  Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae Enters through broken Human skin. Infection in synovial fluid.

3. Parasites

These may include:

  1. Frounce or trichomoniasis causing avian skin plaques.
  2. Fleas.
  3. Ticks carrying Lyme disease.
  4. Lice.

4. Others

Though rarely, but hawk attacks may also result in:

  1. Chewing out of an ear.
  2. Excessive loss of blood.
  3. Loss of sensation owing to some nerve damage.

Cases Reported Regarding Hawk-Attacks on Humans

No hawk attack has ever directly resulted in a human death. 

Here are a few of the most popular hawk attack cases:

  1. In 2006, a nesting red-tailed hawk attacked 30+ people on the Village Greens Golf Course in Woodridge Illinois. At least two were hospitalized.
  2. In Boston, a teenage girl was attacked during jogging leaving her with a huge lump on her head.
  3. In Spring Hills, a broody hawk took away part of the human scalp when that person tried to approach the nest.
  4. Hawks attack passerby in Tampa Bay.
  5. In 2010-2011, a single red-tailed hawk attacked people in Avon.
  6. In Lakeville, a hawk attacked a 38-year-old male passerby.
  7. In Weston, a pair of goshawks attacked homeowners when these raptors were nesting in their lawn. 
  8. In Utah, a red-tail hawk attacked the ears of a hiker.

However, in most of these attacks, the victims did not even see their attacker. And so, it cannot be claimed with certainty that all these were indeed hawks. 

Perhaps, these attacks were from some other similar raptor, say eagles.

Now you may be wondering..

Can You Kill a Hawk If It Attacks You?

Absolutely, not.

You see, hawks are protected under “The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA)”.

According to this law, it is illegal to capture, cage, hurt, kill, shoot, hunt, or even poison hawks.

Violation of this Act may lead to fines of $5000-$15,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months, or even 3 years.

While there are several ways to reduce hawks around your home.

However, if a hawk is attacking you then, I suggest you:

  1. Duck if you see a hawk coming for you.
  2. Don’t turn your back to the hawk as it may trigger the bird.
  3. Walk away slowly.
  4. Don’t let your birds or kids outside without your supervision, or at least a helmet.
  5. Call in your local wildlife services. They will either move the nest or take the male hawk in their custody for the breeding season.

Though some may suggest using water-hose or paintball guns to scare away the raptor. 

I discourage using any sort of weapons or tools against these birds.

Final Words 

Hawks are smart enough to not attack humans.

In fact, most of these raptors tend to avoid human-populated areas.

Though rarely, however, hawks do attack humans.

Usually, this involves a hawk trying to protect its babies 

While hawks do pose certain hazards and can attack you, it’s not legal to shoot them 

You can scare them away using the tactics mentioned in the article

Check out these related articles about hawks

Why do hawks circle?

How long do hawks stay in one area?

Do hawks eat rabbits?

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