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Do Hawks Eat Snakes? (All You Need to Know)

Hawks are birds of prey and are widely distributed. Different species of hawks differ greatly in size, length of tails, and overall build. Hawks are carnivores and prey on smaller animals.

Do hawks eat snakes?

Hawks are predatorial birds and eat snakes along with smaller animals in their diet. They are thought to be natural enemies of snakes and are good at tracking slithering snakes on the ground while soaring up in the sky. Their better vision gives them an upper hand over snakes.

Most of the species of hawks are considered to be natural enemies of snakes. They feast on snakes given the opportunity and are quite outstanding among the birds that prey on snakes, besides the eagle. They seldom fail in catching a snake.

Hawks are especially good at tracking snakes on the ground. They can track snakes that are slithering on the ground while they are soaring high up in the blue sky. This does not give the snake a chance to detect that a predator is nearby.

Snakes are preyed upon by hawks mostly because of the nutrients they hold and their availability in the surroundings. Consuming a snake gives the hawk proteins and amino acids that are not produced in the body.

This allows the development of cells walls, muscles, and the ability to regulate hormones, and also, the hawk gains about 93 calories per 100g of snake meat.

Do these hawks eat snakes? What kind of snakes do hawks eat?

Most hawks are carnivores in nature and can be found to hunt down various species of snakes. Some famous varieties of hawks are listed:

Red-tailed hawks:

Red-tailed hawks are exceptional at tracking snakes lurking on the ground below them. Even while on a flight, they can locate the snake on the ground. With a dive and a quick swoop, they get up in the air again with the snake in their legs.

In addition to other smaller snakes, red-tailed hawks prefer bullsnakes, also known as gopher snakes, and rattlesnakes in particular.

Red-shouldered hawks:

Similar to red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks are effective predators in the wild. They help maintain the balance between predators and prey in woodlands and grassland areas.

Their diet includes snakes along with other smaller animals such as rodents. Red-shouldered hawks often eat rattlesnakes, garter snakes, and black rat snakes along with other species of snakes depending on what is available in their environment.


Sparrowhawks are lighter and smaller in size relative to other hawks. They have a reputation for hunting the chirping songbirds, smaller birds, rodents, small mammals, and insects.

Sparrowhawks are masters at a hunt, often flying high up in the air and often hiding in branches among the leaves to jump their prey. Their small size makes them more agile but prevents them from preying on snakes.

Cooper’s hawks:

Cooper’s hawks are perfectly adapted to hunting in dense forest settings. They have rounded wings a long tail that allows them to maneuver swiftly within tight spots. Cooper’s hawks are very opportunistic.

They prey on songbirds, like the sparrowhawks, and also on doves, quails, woodpeckers, bats, mice, and squirrels. Even though they are well-adapted to hunting a variety of prey, they do not prey on snakes.


Chickenhawks are carnivores in nature and can be found in woodlands, deserts, forests, and open grasslands. They weigh roughly 3.9lb and can be 26 inches tall. Chickenhawks hunt down rodents, small birds, lizards, squirrels, frogs, and snakes.

They do not feed on any particular type of snake as they mostly eat what is available to them.

Do hawks eat these snakes?

Hawks devour quite a significant number of species of snakes. Some of the most commonly found snakes follow:


Kingsnakes, also called Prairie king snakes, are native to the south-central United States. They are non-venomous colubrid and are medium-sized.

Although they are dangerous predators of rodents, lizards, and other smaller snakes, they face pressure when their predators, mainly the red-tailed hawks, are around as they prey upon these snakes.


Rattlesnakes are powerful predators on their own. They have a body that is designed for preying and defending themselves. These snakes use their patterned body as camouflage.

However, hawks fight with these snakes and end up making a meal out of rattlesnakes as they are swift and precise than snakes.

Poisonous snakes:

Although most snake species are poisonous, they are not safe from predators. Mature hawks are perfect examples of birds of prey that feed on poisonous snakes.

If the snake is poisonous, the hawk breaks the snake’s neck and consumes the body. This saves the hawk from snakebite and poisoning itself.

Garter snakes:

Most species of garter snakes are not poisonous, venomous, and aggressive. For such harmless nature, they are kept as household pets. Few species of garter snakes, however, get aggressive to defend or hunt.

Hawks do not differentiate between species and eat any species of garter snake available to them.

Copperhead snakes:

Known as ambush predators, copperhead snakes are impressive at hiding and staying still while waiting for their prey. Upon the animal falling on its sight, the copperhead snake strikes and hunts down its prey.

They have a heat-sensing pit on their head that gives them information about surrounding heat signatures. Hawks are copperhead snakes’ main predators and show no mercy taking out these snakes and feasting on them.

Black snakes:

Black snakes are not venomous and, most of the black snake species are not aggressive. This means that they do not try attacking humans or animals unless provoked.

If they feel threatened, they will surely bite but will usually flee as they are excellent swimmers. But they make a great meal for hawks as they feed on black snakes when they spot them on the ground.

Rat snakes:

Rat snakes, also called black rat snakes, are black snakes. They are not aggressive and are non-lethal to humans and plants in general. Having excellent swimming skills, they will flee most of the time when threatened but may bite.

These black rat snakes are preyed upon by hawks as they find these snakes easy to capture.


While bull snakes mainly eat rodents and lizards, they also prey upon birds. They are non-venomous colubrid snakes that are native to North America and the United States.

Although these snakes can reach 8 ft in length, hawks are not afraid of hunting them down and making a meal out of them.

How does a hawk catch and eat a snake?

All hawks have 5-6 times better vision than humans that allows them to view their surroundings with utmost accuracy. As the structure of their eyes gives them binocular vision, they can spot their prey from high up from a tree branch or the sky while in a flight.

These majestic birds swoop down fast to attack their prey and vigorously catches it. They have such active reflexes that they are swift and precise in their actions that most of the time, their victims are gone before they realize what has happened.

Using their sharp talons and beaks, they take out their targets.

Small snakes are easily eliminated with talons but, larger ones require them to be active in their actions. Venomous snakes usually have their neck broken to avoid getting bitten and poisoned. Then, they either carry it to their nest or eat it there.

Do Harris’s hawks and red-tailed hawks eat rattlesnakes?

Yes, both Harris’s and red-tailed hawks eat rattlesnakes. Both of these hawks are bigger compared to rattlesnakes. Their size gives them an advantage over rattlesnakes.

Red-tailed hawks are fond of rattlesnakes and frequently eat them if spotted. Harris’s hawks, on the other hand, rarely feed on rattlesnakes. They commonly feed on pigeons and lizards.

Can a rattlesnake harm a hawk?

Yes, a rattlesnake can terminate a hawk. Mostly, rattlesnakes do not stand a chance with the adult and mature hawks as they have both precise actions and fast reflexes. The inexperienced hawks are the ones who fall prey to rattlesnakes.

Hawks that have not fully matured do not have fast thinking and reflex. As a result, the rattlesnake attacks them. In such a case, the hunter becomes hunted.

Do hawks eat departed snakes?

Yes, hawks eat passed away snakes. Hawks are known to eat animals whether it is alive or not. If it considers it edible, it will start eating it right away.

Even then, hawks will avoid eating the head as it might contain toxins to avoid poisoning itself. Their actions give a clear idea of how clever hawks are in nature.

Final Thoughts

Most birds belonging to the hawk family catch and consume snakes as part of their diet. Few hawks do not hunt snakes, mainly because of their limitations, but most of them do. They are intelligent and speedy, and this gives them an edge over their victims.