Are Hawks Dangerous to Humans? (Let’s Find Out) (2023)

Imagine that you’re sitting outside with your toddler and suddenly, you see a hawk circling above you, and your heart races from fear. Hawks are intimidating birds of prey that pose a significant risk to many small animals and other birds.

But do they pose a risk to humans?

Hawks can be dangerous to humans if they come near hawk nests during the nesting season. Hawks also can spread diseases that might be transmitted to humans. However, most conflicts between hawks and humans result in only minor injuries like cuts and scrapes.

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Are Hawks Dangerous to Humans? (Let’s Find Out) (1)

Why Hawks Can Be Dangerous to Humans

Hawks are not usually hostile towards people, but they can become aggressive when their nests appear to be threatened.

If you approach a hawk nest during the breeding season, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience a hawk attack.

While most hawk attacks result in only minor injuries, hawks have sharp claws and can cause deep cuts in some cases.

(Video) 14 Best Hawk Attacks Caught On Camera!!

Attacks on People

In 2006, a red-tailed hawk attacked 30 or more people on the Village Greens Golf Course in Woodridge, Illinois.

These attacks happened during nesting season when the hawks are particularly defensive of their baby chicks.

Once the babies learned to fly around the end of June, the attacks subsided.

Hawks have sharp talons and can do real damage when they attack. Thankfully, only two of these victims were hospitalized for their cuts, and the rest sustained only minor injuries.

Attacks on Pets and Livestock

Hawks will generally prey upon animals that are smaller than themselves. For most hawks, this might mean animals weighing four pounds or less.

It’s uncommon to see a hawk attacking and attempting to carry away small breeds of cats or dogs.However, it does happen and it’s never a good idea to leave any pet under 20 pounds alone outside.

Hawks may also attack cats or dogs who come near their nests as a defensive maneuver.

Hawk attacks on small chickens are much more common than attacks on cats or dogs because chickens are small enough to be considered prey.

Diseases Spread by Hawks

There are over 60 diseases that hawks can spread to humans, which are spread both through direct contact and contact with droppings.


These include all of the following:

  • Avian tuberculosis: This potentially fatal bacterial disease spreads through contact with bird droppings.
  • West nile virus: This is transmitted indirectly from hawks to humans through mosquito carriers and can be potentially fatal or cause months of illness.
  • Candidiasis: This fungal infection spreads from hawks to humans through contact and affects the mouth, skin, intestines, and respiratory system.
  • Pasteurellosis: This is spread to humans through scratches or bites from infected birds. It causes scratch marks to become red, itchy, and infected and can cause respiratory problems like bronchitis, septicemia, and pneumonia.
  • E.coli: This can spread to humans from birds when infected birds spread the bacteria to water or food or direct contact with a person.
  • Avian influenza: This causes flu symptoms like fever, cough, and muscle aches and can be deadly. It spreads from infected birds to humans through their droppings.
  • Erysipeloid: This is spread through direct contact with hawks, affecting broken skin and causes an infection that turns the skin blue-red. The infection can further spread to affect the joints.

Numerous parasites live on the skin of hawks and can spread to humans through direct contact with either the hawk or a hawk’s nest, which include:

  • Fleas: They transfer to humans or pets from hawks and other birds very easily, and can reproduce very rapidly inside a nest.
  • Ticks: They can spread from birds to humans through direct contact or contact with a shared surface, like handling a bird’s perch. Ticks can carry many different diseases, including Lyme Disease.
  • Lice: They can spread easily from bird feathers to human hair and skin.

After making contact with a hawk, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent illness.

How Hawks Attack

Whether hunting or defending their nest, hawks rely on the element of surprise in their attacks. They approach quickly from behind and use their talons and beaks to kill their prey.

Let’s take a look at how to protect yourself, your animals, and your loved ones from a hawk attack.

How To Stay Safe From Hawk Attacks

The best way to keep yourself and your animals safe from hawk attacks is to prevent any encounter from happening in the first place.

Shiny repellents like old CDs and shiny ribbon tape can scare away predators like the hawk.

Consider trying the shiny pinwheel-like Bird Blinder Repellent PinWheels, found on Amazon, for effectiveness and aesthetic appeal.

If you have chickens in your backyard that you need to protect, make sure that you provide a coop where they can run for cover.

(Video) Hawk Makes HILARIOUS Face After Being Rescued! #Birds #Shorts #Pets

A covered run with netting or fencing as a roof also works well for deterring aerial predators. Chickens with lighter feathers are more at risk for attack than those with darker feathers.

If you notice a hawk close by, make sure that you face it head-on, because hawks attack from behind.

Is It Legal To Attack a Hawk?

Hawks are not endangered or threatened, but they have special protections due to the U.S. Migratory Act, which states that it is illegal to hurt, hunt, trap, cage, poison, shoot, or in any way harm a hawk in the United States.

If a hawk is attacking you or your pets, the best thing you can do is scare the hawk away without hurting it.

Looking Out for Hawk Nests

Hawks mainly attack people when they approach their nests. Staying safe from hawks is easier if you know where to look for hawk nests and how to recognize them when you see them.

Hawks build their nests high up on trees, ledges, roofs, and other places with a good vantage point. You can recognize their nests by the large sticks used to construct them.

These nests are tall, up to 6.5 feet high (2 meters), and wide, and 3 feet (0.91 meters) across.

Hawks line their nests with bark, foliage, and vegetation.

Hawks often reuse nests, so if you notice a hawk’s nest one year, there are good chances the birds will return to it the next.

(Video) 15 Merciless Hawk Hunting Moments Caught On Camera

Some raptors, like the Great Horned Owl, will take over hawk nests that are left unattended.

Nesting Season

Hawk breeding season starts in the late winter and early spring and is followed by the nesting season for their young.

Usually, hawks will start building their nests between April and May and then lay two to three eggs, incubated by the male and the female for 28 to 35 days.

After the eggs have hatched, they’ll stay in the nest for about 44 to 46 days.

Hawks are especially protective of their nests from when their eggs are laid to the point where the nestlings leave. This period usually lasts for a good part of the spring and the summer.

How To Tell a Hawk’s Nest Apart From a Squirrel’s Nest

Squirrels, like hawks, build their nests high up in the trees, and from a distance, the two can look similar.

However, squirrels’ nests are smaller than hawks’ nests, and they make their nests from packed leaves instead of sticks.

These are easier to tell apart with a good pair of binoculars like the Gosky 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars, found on Amazon.



Will hawks attack humans? ›

In fact, these intelligent birds will often use human activity to their advantage, perching on rooftops and power lines to survey the area for potential prey. While hawks will rarely attack humans outright, they may become aggressive if they feel threatened or if they are protecting their young.

What to do if a hawk is in your yard? ›

If a particularly aggressive hawk refuses to leave your yard and becomes a threat to pets or humans, contact local wildlife management or animal control officials. It is possible that the bird is injured and unable to hunt in more difficult areas, or it may be nesting nearby.

What happens when a hawk visits you? ›

When a hawk visits you, this bird is communicating a message with you. The message might be about paying attention and reevaluating your needs or goals, or it might mean change is imminent.

What are the dangers of hawks? ›

Hawks are dangerous to humans because they can cause wounds to flesh and spread diseases that negatively impact human health. They can also prey on small pets such as kittens, or livestock, like chicks. Hawks cannot lift prey larger than their own body weight.

Can I touch a hawk? ›

You should NOT touch the raptor unless absolutely necessary. Ensure that it is safe from cars, cats, dogs, and other people. If it is in the road, you may have to move it to the side before it can be rescued (see below for how to handle a raptor). Who do I contact?

Are hawks good to have around? ›

We love our birds of prey and do everything we can to help protect them, even though that means having the occasional bird parts and blood strewn over our patio and back yards. Birds of prey, like the Cooper's Hawk, play an important ecological role by controlling rodents and other small mammals.

What scares a hawk away? ›

Hang Some Flashy Tape

The combination of bright flashes and unexpected loud, crackling noise effectively frighten hawks. Because they're unsure what created the light and sound, hawks fear for their safety and fly away, leaving your chickens in peace.

What does it mean when a hawk sits outside your house? ›

A hawk coming to you will likely mean that you need to receive a message and prepare for big changes in your future. This future might bring good fortune or bring upheaval, or both. In most cultures, hawks have a positive association and are considered good luck.

Can a hawk pick up a 10 lb dog? ›

Pat Silovsky, director of the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas, explains that while there have been reports of hawks and owls attacking and carrying off very small dogs, the reason it is such an uncommon occurrence is that birds of prey cannot carry anything that weighs more than their own body weight.

What does the Bible say about hawks? ›

Job 39:26-30 (NIV): In this passage, God speaks to Job about the marvels of creation, including the characteristics and abilities of birds of prey like eagles and hawks. The passage emphasizes the wisdom and guidance of God in the natural world and serves as a reminder of the magnificence of His creation.

How do you know if a hawk is around? ›

Piles of Feathers Can Be Evidence of a Hawk

Hawks will sometimes sit on the ground and pluck their meal right there. Other times they take the bird to a tree to pluck them, with feathers falling down to the ground from there.

What does a hawk do at night? ›

Typically, hawks do not search for food at night, but they definitely hunt up until dusk, which is the time period right before it gets dark. During the day, hawks will fly high in the sky and look for prey below. At night, however, hawks will often perch on a branch or in a tree and listen for their prey.

Can a hawk pick up a dog? ›

Pat Silovsky, director of the Milford Nature Center in Junction City, Kansas, explains that while there have been reports of hawks and owls attacking and carrying off very small dogs, the reason it is such an uncommon occurrence is that birds of prey cannot carry anything that weighs more than their own body weight.

Why does a hawk stay around my house? ›

Why do hawks stay around your house? Most hawks will hang around urban and suburban areas if there is an easy food source. This usually means that you have a bird feeder that attracts many smaller birds.

Would a hawk attack a dog? ›

The answer is yes, hawks do attack dogs, but it's not a common occurrence. Hawks will only attack prey they deem small enough to pick up and carry away. So, large and medium-sized dog breeds, like Labradors or even Springer Spaniels, won't need to worry as much about being attacked by a hawk.


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