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Hawk vs Eagle: 6 Key Differences Explained

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key point
  • The Eagle has a grip of up to 400 psi and the Eagle has a grip of up to 200 psi.
  • Eagles are generally heavier and have a larger wingspan compared to hawks.
  • Contrary to popular belief, eagles do not emit a strong screech, but a high-pitched call. That powerful cry is the patent of the hawk.

Look at that bird in the sky! Is it an eagle? Is it an eagle? If this sounds like you, don't worry. Many people have trouble telling the difference between a hawk and a hawk, and it's easy to understand why. Eagles and hawks both belong to the eagle family. Both birds tend to hunt during the day and sleep at night. Furthermore, although hawks are more widely distributed, there are no particular differences in their plumage, colour, habitat or distribution. With more than 200 species of eagles and more than 60 species of hawks, how do you tell the difference between a hawk and a hawk?

In fact, most scientists differentiate hawks from hawks based on body size. In general, hawks are bigger than hawks. Due to their larger size, they generally possess greater strength, which allows them to hunt a wider variety of prey. That said, there are a few other differences that set these large raptors apart. In this article, we will discuss six key differences between hawks and hawks. We'll also answer some frequently asked questions about the two, in case we didn't cover anything during our comparison. Here are six ways to tell the difference between a hawk and a hawk.

Comparing the Eagles and Eagles

fighting white tailed hawk
Eagles are divided into four groups including ospreys, boot hawks, snake hawks and harpies

© Albert Beukhof/Shutterstock.com

Hawks include at least a dozen different subfamilies, most of which include some hawk species. Types such as goshawks and sparrowhawks include multiple species, while some individual species are widespread, such as the red-tailed hawk. Some birds have different names depending on the region, which can lead to considerable confusion. For example, some people refer to ospreys as "ospreys," while others refer to peregrine falcons as "duck eagles." Ospreys (Pandionidae) or falcons (Falconidae) are not in the same family as eagles or hawks, although these names may still be widely used in some areas. Also, hawks belonging to the genus Buzzard are commonly called "vultures" in certain regions, usually in Europe and Asia. While language exists to distinguish a butaine hawk from an accipitrine, or "true hawk," most distinctions are relatively arbitrary.

Meanwhile, scientists generally classify hawks into one of four groups. These include fish carvings, boot carvings or "true carvings", snake carvings and harpy carvings or "giant forest carvings". The different groups exist to help researchers group birds together based on specific characteristics. For example, fish carvings usually eat seafood as the main food, while snake carvings are suitable for eating reptiles. On the other hand, boot eagles have feathers on their legs, while horned eagles live mainly in tropical forests. Although they may seem insignificant, these classifications help scientists compare and classify birds. In turn, the comparison gives us a window into their lives and helps conservationists predict potential threats to the health of specific bird populations.

eagle eagle
size 7.9 to 27 inches long
2.5 oz to 4 lbs
15 to 36 inches long
1 to 21 lbs
span 15 inches to 60 inches 33 inches to 9.4 feet
strength Grip up to 200 psi
Can carry animals up to 4 lbs
Grip up to 400 psi
Ability to lift up to 20 pounds
diet Birds, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, frogs, snakes, insects, rabbits, lizards, crabs Birds, waterfowl, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, rabbits, fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, deer,
sound Often described as a hoarse "scream" usually with a high-pitched whistle or pipe
nest and eggs Usually nests in trees and lays 1-5 eggs Nests on the edge of a cliff or in a tree usually lays 1-2 eggs

6 Key Differences Between Hawks and Hawks

Hawks vs Eagles: Size

Moulting Animal - Red Tailed Hawk
The red-tailed hawk's distinctive tail feathers are the result of the molting process.

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

The main difference between eagle and hawk has to do with their respective size. Eagles generally represent larger species, although there is some overlap, with greater hawks being larger than smaller hawks. For example, eaglets in Central and South America weigh only about 2.5 to 4.4 ounces, and the smallest are only 15 inches long. Compare that to the largest hawk, the ferrous hawk. Females can grow up to 27 inches long and weigh nearly 4 pounds.

That is, the common eagle is the same size or larger than the largest eagle. For example, the great Nicobar snake vulture is one of the smallest known hawks, weighing just over a pound and measuring between 15 and 17 inches in length. Although small for an eagle, it's average size for an eagle. However, it looks tiny compared to some of the largest eagles. For example, the Philippine eagle can reach a length of 36 inches, while the Steller's sea eagle can weigh nearly 21 pounds.

Hawks vs. Hawks: Wingspan

Another difference between hawks and hawks is their wingspan. As with body size, eagles typically have a larger wingspan than hawks. The little sparrowhawk is one of, if not the smallest of, the hawks. On average, their wingspan is between 15 and 20 inches. Meanwhile, the Iron Eagle has a wingspan of up to 60 inches. That said, large eagles have almost double or triple the wingspan of most hawk species. The Great Nicobar Snake has a wingspan of at least 33 inches, while some species have wingspans between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. At their largest they can reach a length of 8 or 9 feet, and the current record is held by a female wedge-tailed vulture with a wingspan of 9 feet 4 inches long.

Eagles and Eagles: Power

As carnivorous raptors, both eagles and hawks have evolved powerful feet and sharp talons to catch, grab and tear their prey. However, eagles are generally stronger than hawks due to their larger size. One way to measure strength is by grip strength. While the red-tailed hawk's talons have a grip of 200 psi, it pales in comparison to the grip of bald and golden eagles. These big eagles are estimated to have a grip of up to 400 psi. Another way to measure strength is to see how much a bird can carry. On average, most birds can carry objects weighing up to their own body weight, but some large hawks and owls can carry up to three times their body weight. Given this rule, most eagles can only lift prey weighing about 4 pounds, while many can lift prey weighing up to 20 pounds.

Hawks and Eagles: Diet

Hawk vs Eagle - bald eagle catches fish
A bald eagle catches a fish

© jbieger/Shutterstock.com

While there are some differences between hawk to hawk diet, there are also many similarities. For example, both species tend to prey on small mammals such as mice, rabbits and squirrels, as well as smaller birds such as songbirds or woodpeckers. Additionally, some hawks and hawks were adapted to prey on reptiles such as snakes and lizards, while others evolved to catch fish. That said, the main difference in their diets is that eagles can also prey on large mammals and birds, while hawks cannot. Some hawks target large waterfowl such as geese and ducks, while others prey on fawns or goats, especially babies or young.

Hawks and Eagles: The Voices

It is widely believed that both eagles and falcons screech. This belief may come from movies and television, which occasionally feature the typical triumphant cry of a hawk as it soars through the sky. In fact, hawks and hawks sound quite different, and the difference might surprise you. Most adult hawks emit a hoarse screech that we associate with large birds of prey. On the other hand, many eagles tend to make short, high-pitched chirps or whistles.

Eagles and Eagles: Nest and Eggs

Another difference that distinguishes hawks from hawks is their nests and eggs. Most hawks only nest in tall trees. While some species lay only 1 or 2 eggs, many eagle species lay 3 to 5 eggs at a time. Eagles, on the other hand, may nest in trees or on the sides of cliffs. For example, bald eagles prefer to nest in trees, while golden eagles often prefer to nest near cliffs. Also, due to their large size, most eagles can only lay 1 or 2 eggs at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eagles and Eagles

How good is the eyesight of hawks and hawks?

Both eagles and hawks have keen eyesight. Some species and discerning small mammals hide in shelters up to 2 miles away, and scientists estimate their eyes are five to eight times stronger than ours.

How fast can eagles and hawks fly?

Both hawks and hawks can achieve incredible speeds, especially when diving. Red-tailed hawks can reach speeds of up to 120 mph, while golden eagles can reach speeds of 150 to 200 mph.


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