In the family of predatory birds, the hawks and falcons are often mistaken for each other. They have a clear vision the prey that will catch their attention will most likely not escape. Both are very dangerous and powerful carnivores. They both rule the skies with their majestic wings whenever inflight.
Considering these similarities of character, how can an ordinary observer differentiate a hawk and a falcon?
This article aims to be a guide to novices on how to tell a hawk and falcon apart. There will also be a discussion of their unique characteristics and behaviors for better understanding. Ready to go on a round of Falcon vs. Hawk? Let’s begin with the comparisons.
The Characteristics Of Hawks
Hawks are powerful birds that can travel at high speeds and withstand long migrational travel. They are equipped with curved sharp talons that efficiently catch their prey. These specimens have outstanding strength and stamina. Based on records, hawks can attain a maximum speed of 150mph.
Their senses are also impeccable, they have excellent hearing and their eyesight is unrivaled in the animal kingdom. The hawks can see eight times better than a healthy adult man. It is probably the origin of the metaphor that persons with good eyesight have the eyes of a hawk.
This breed is monogamous, some couples stay together even if the breeding season ends. For those who chose to temporarily be a part, they would meet each other again the following year. Their rendevous is often the nesting territory they stayed in the previous time.
Expert Tip: Hawks faithfully stay with their mate until the other dies. But they don’t have problems finding another partner in the case the other meets its demise.
The Characteristics Of Falcons:
Falcons have long and narrow pointed wings that are distinguishable in flight. They also have lengthy and slender tails that are beautiful to observe. Their plumage is often in shades of white and grey.
Falcons are excellent flyers that glide the skies with a streamlined pattern. They are also extraordinary hunters and can capture their prey in mid-air. In history, these birds helped hunters somewhere between the Middle ages and Rennaisance. This practice is called Falconry.
These creatures naturally like to inhabit open areas and prefer elevated areas like rocky cliffs. They often choose locations that are near a river, lake, or stream. But they have no qualms co-existing with humans. Now in modern times, these birds are comfortable living in towns and cities. They would be seen nesting on buildings and bridges.
How You Can Tell The Difference Between Hawks and Falcons?
In terms of physical appearance, it is possible to cite some differences. Listed are the traits that can point out their uniqueness clearly:
- Size and Body Shape
- Wing Shape
- Head Structure
- Beak Shape
- Flight Pattern
Size and Body Shape
Generally, hawks are bigger than falcons when it comes to size. Currently, the biggest hawk species is ferruginous, it measures in the range of 22.5 to 25 inches long. The largest falcon in existence is the artic Gyrfalcon that has a length of 24 inches. In both predatory specimens, the females are larger than the males.
On average the hawks can measure from 16 to 26 inches and have a body mass of 3.5 pounds. While the falcons range from 13 to 24 inches and can weigh as much as 3.3 pounds.
Expert Tip: In terms of body shape, hawks have a stocky build compared to falcons who are slender.
However, if the judgment will be limited to size and body shape it would be hard to tell the two apart when in flight.
Birds of prey have majestic forms when they are in flight. That is why to tell them apart from their appearance while riding the wind is essential. Observing even from afar it can be noticed that falcons compared to hawks have long and slender wings that seem to be pointed at the tip.
Hawks tend to have very wide wings. About its body when fully laid out looks almost the same size. Compared to the falcon, the tip of the hawk’s wings when spread fully is round in shape.
Expressing in numbers a hawk’s wingspan ranges from an astounding 3.5 to 4 feet. While for slender falcons their wingspan is longer than hawks that go between 3.7 to 4.2 feet. During the flight, hawks tend to glide slower compared to falcons.
But they have special separated feathers at the end of their wings. This feature makes them conduct maneuvers more accurately.
Falcons fly faster possibly due to their slim built and long wings. Looking closely at the structure of their wings, it is more aerodynamic than the hawks. The Peregrine Falcon holds the record of the fastest flyer at 60mph and when diving it can go as fast as 200mph.
The head structure is another way to conduct the falcon vs. hawk comparison. In an oblique angle, the head of these predatory birds has a huge difference. The hawks have sleek pointed heads as compared to the falcons are short and rounded.
Falcons also have distinguishable facial markings. Their cheeks are colored white take note of the Peregrine’s appearance as an example. In comparison to a Red Tail Hawk whose cheeks are in a shade of brown.
Birds of prey like the falcon and hawk rely a lot on their powerful beaks. They utilize it fully to capture and devour their target. At a closer look, there is a difference between the beak shape of the two.
Observing the hawk, it has a sharp curved beak that it efficiently uses to bite and tear the flesh of its prey. The falcon, on the other hand, has a notched beak. At the end of its beak, a sharp tooth is present. It is used as a tool to paralyze and severe the neck of its catch.
Expert Tip: The falcons and hawks are not picky eaters. Meaning, if they eyed something and decided to catch it, they will most likely consume it. They often prey on smaller mammals.
One of the best things often observed and documented about falcons and hawks is their flight patterns. Due to the difference in their wing shape and structure, the way they fly is distinguishable. The two also display different mannerisms when gliding in the air with their wings.
Hawks that have a wide wing design cover a greater surface area when spread out fully. To get maximum control of it hawks would slowly flap their wings then glide across the air. Hawks would slyly fly across numerous trees and shrubs. They do this to sneak up on their desired prey.
Using their clear vision and speed, they can efficiently grab their target even on flat ground. Some of their frequent land targets are mice, squirrels, rats, and rabbits. Hawks that have a wide wing design cover a greater surface area when spread out fully. To get maximum control of it hawks would slowly flap their wings then glide across the air.
Hawks would slyly fly across numerous trees and shrubs. They do this to sneak up on their desired prey. Using their clear vision and speed, they can efficiently grab their target even on flat ground. Some of their frequent land targets are mice, squirrels, rats, and rabbits.
Falcons have slender aerodynamic wings. Their wingspan is longer than the hawks. Falcons during flight would flap their wings rapidly and glide for a short period. They prefer to fly in wide-open spaces that offer more freedom of movement. Falcons are known for their fast diving speed.
Using this skill, they can catch their prey either using their beak or talons. They are known for capturing the target in mid-air before it falls to the ground. Most of their frequent targets are smaller birds and other flying animals.
Who is the more powerful Falcon or Hawk?
It is quite a difficult question. However, it will be dealt with objectively. In terms of speed during the falcons are better when these two species decide to race. Falcons have a maximum flying speed of 242mph compared to a hawk’s 200mph.
In the case of a duel, depending on the species that will take part, body size and strength would matter. Considering the largest specimen of a falcon, the Gyrfalcon will have difficulty winning over the hawk with the biggest built, the Ferruginous.
Comparing the longevity of these creatures, the hawks can outlive the falcons. In the wild hawks have an average lifespan of 20 years and max out till 30 years. Falcons depending on the species can average from 13 to 20 years. In captivity, falcons can have an additional five more years.
Adapting to a more industrialized world is also a challenge for these two breeds. Falcons on this matter have come up with ways to cohabit with humans in cities. They even nest on structures like buildings and bridges. The hawks are a bit on the conservative side. They can be located in cities but still opt to nest in natural habitats like trees.
Do Falcons attack humans?
Falcons can attack humans under certain circumstances in the wild. They are best known as docile pets when they are domesticated. But in the wild, they will defend their territory against the intruders. If a human intrudes on their territory, it is possible for them to attack people.
That is particularly true when the falcons are nesting their eggs in the wild. Be wary of falcons that are nesting in the general area as well. The sharp beak of the falcon makes it a dangerous predator. It is well known to attack smaller birds in the wild.
It routinely preys on wildlife such as rabbits and other small mammals. The talons of the falcon are also adept at grabbing prey.
Expert Tip: The falcon might swoop down and attack a person in the wild. That is supposed to deter the human from stealing the eggs of the falcon nest.
How do you identify a falcon?
Many bird watchers want to scope out the falcon in the wild. But they might not be sure which bird is the right one. The body size of the falcon is one hint that people can follow. The bird is identified as a medium-sized raptor in the sky. The wing size of the bird is another helpful hint for the watcher.
The bird watcher will want to take some pictures if possible. A falcon sighting can be quite rare in some parts of the world today.
The bird is known to have white and brown colors on its coat. The feathers are matted and sleek for the bird. Catch a glimpse of the falcon as it flies through the air. The falcon is going to be an interesting sighting to see in the wild. Mating season is a good time to see it. That helps the people find it.
Falcons vs. Hawks is a popular topic in the bird-watching community. From the discussed information it can be concluded that: Hawks are larger, flies slower, glide the air longer, come in shades of brown, and are heavier. While the falcon is smaller, flies faster while flapping its wings more, usually comes in tones of grey, and is very slender.
Hopefully, this write-up has shed some light on how to differentiate the two.