Hawk vs Falcon vs Eagle | What Is The Difference Between Them?

Looking up in the sky from the ground and to tell a difference between the majestic birds of prey can be difficult. 

One always gets confused between raptors, Hawk, Falcon, and Eagle. However, there are so many differences and each one of them has unique features to identify them up in the sky. 

What is a raptor?

Raptors are birds that prey. These birds have certain characteristics and features that make them raptors. 

These birds are exclusively carnivores and their diet includes nothing but meat alone. 

Raptors are powerful hunters, they forage, attack, hunt, and then eat their food.  They are likely to kill a living prey for food but can be seen eating a carcass when another source of food is scarce and it’s the easy way to have a meal. 

What makes them powerful hunters is their thick and strong talons and hooked powerful bills. 

Raptors like falcons, hawks, and eagles can prey on snakes, fish, insects, mice, rabbits, squirrels, gophers, and other birds. 

More often you will find raptors in solitude, flying high, however, they can be found gathered to hunt when met the occasion like nesting sites or not searching for competitive mates in winters. 

What is the difference between hawks, falcons and eagles?

The article provides a clear picture of differences between falcons, hawks, and eagles based on different points like shape, size, color, range, migration, wings, and more. 

Characteristics | Origin & Species distinction of Hawks, Falcons, Eagles 

BasisHawksFalconsEagles
Characteristics Hawks are known for their intelligence based on their innovation in feeding habits. They are highly intelligent towards other hawks and humans. Hawks have four types of color receptors. Having great eyesight they can also perceive ultraviolet lights. Hawks also have adaptations for magnetic fields and polar lights. Falcons fly at high speed, and can easily change their direction rapidly due to their thin and tapered wings. Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon measuring up to 65 cm in length. The smallest measures up to 20 cm- pygmy falcon. Falcons have exceptional vision, 2.6 times that of normal human beings. Eagles have heavy beaks and heads. They have faster and direct flights despite their small-sized aerodynamic feathers. Like other raptors, the Eagles also have great vision. Martial eagles have eyes two times larger than normal human beings and have a visual acuity that is up to 8 times that of human beings. In the avian world, they are apex predators. 
SpeciesHawks have 270 species. Northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, bat hawk, red-tailed hawk, cooper’s hawk, and res-shouldered hawk are the most familiar hawks that are found. Falcons have about 40 species. The most commonly found falcons are Merlin, the Peregrine falcon, and American kestrel.  Eagles are in total 60 species. Out of which most species can be found in Africa and Eurasia. The most common eagles that can be found are the steppe eagle, the bald eagle, harpy eagle, the golden eagle, and Steller’s sea-eagle. 
OriginBelongs to the family of Accipitridae, kingdom- Animalia, and class-Aves are diurnal birds of prey. Hawks can vary greatly in size and are distributed widely.  Belongs to the family of Falconidae, kingdom- Animalia, and class- Aves. Falcons are greatly distributed. They are not found in Antarctica. Large-sized birds of prey are commonly called eagles. They do not belong to one group of genera but several. Belongs to the family of Accipitridae, kingdom- Animalia, and class-Ave. 

Visual differences ( Size | Shape )

Hawks–  Hawks vary in size. In genus Buteo, the red-tailed hawk is the largest. They are 14 to 19 inches long. Their wingspan is about 3 feet. They have a chunky appearance while flying because of their relatively short tail and wings. Hawks are larger than falcons. 

Falcons– Falcons from largest to smallest can size about 15 cm to 60 cm long, Microhierax and Gyrfalcon respectively. Female falcons ate larger than male falcons and are more sporty, and bolder. Falcons have long tails and pointed wings. Black crown feathers adorn the heads of falcons. 

Eagles–  The female eagles are larger than male eagles in size, they are 108 cm, and the males are 90 cm long. The females have a wingspan of 2.5 meters while males have 2 meters. 

Colors

Hawks– The adult hawks are grayish-brown on the back. The underparts are braided heavily with reddish-brown and also have the color white. Its tail has wide white bands which are two or three in equal sizes and dark colors. 

The red-tailed hawks have pale brown below and rich brown above. Between shoulder and wrist, they have a dark bar, with a streaked belly, they also have tail colored cinnamon red above and pale below. The young hawks are brown and banded.  

Falcons–  The plumage of falcons has enough color of dark-slate grey. They have nearly black malar areas. They belong to the dark brown family. The adults have dark heads with sideburns while juveniles have vertical streaks and are heavily marked. 

Eagles–  The bald eagles, adults have whiteheads and whitetails. Their bodies and wings are dark browns. They have bright yellow bills and legs. On the other hand, young eagles have dark heads and dark tails. Their bodies and wings are brown mottled with varieties of white color. 

Flying style and wings

Hawks-  While flying hawks, flutters slowly in circles. They perform flapping briefly followed by gliding. They have short wings. 

Falcons- They have bursting flaps, long tails, steadier wing flaps, speedsters that are pointed-winged, and slim body structures. With a speed of 100mph, falcons fly with brief and rapid flapping. 

Eagles-  Eagles use the flying style of soaring. They rarely flap and keep wings outwards, saving a lot of energy. Eagles rely on rising air currents. They have long and narrow wings. 

Activities

Hawks are predators, and they efficiently kill, catch, and eat. They can be seen on trees perching and sitting on poles watching for prey. 

Falcons can be seen hinting at flying prey. They love solitude, and it is a wonderful experience to watch falcons perform aerial aerobatics. 

Eagles hunt by swooping down. Eagles are majestic birds and can be seen soaring, and sliding in long distances. 

Habitat

Hawks usually live in fields, deserts, mountain plains, and humid places. They are found in Jamaica, West Indies, and Central America. 

While Falcons can live everywhere in the open, they can live in grasslands, arctic tundra, and deserts. Their habitat also includes coastal areas, water bodies, and different types of forests. 

The Eagles like to live surrounded by forests, lakes, and reservoirs. During winters eagles can be seen hunting near unfrozen lakes. 

Hunting & Killing methods

Both falcon and hawk catch their prey by using their talons. However, they have a major difference when it comes to the killing method. 

Hawks use their strong feet and talons that are sharp and large for tearing apart their food. Falcons deliver their final killing move by using their tooth or serration which are on both the sides of their beaks.  

Eagles use the counter flight accompanied by a short glide attack on their prey. It uses talons, toes, and claws for catching and holding its prey. 

Range

Hawks-  Hawks are widely distributed, found mostly in North America, interiors of Alaska, West Indies, Northern Canada, and South Panama. 

Falcons-  Northern china, southern and eastern Siberia, India, South Africa, and Arabia are the parts where falcons are found. 

Eagles-  most of the species are found in Eurasia and Africa. They can also be found in North America and south to northern Mexico.

Migration

Eagles migrate partially. The species lives in the same territory year-round with available food and water resources. There are chances that during winters many eagles migrate towards the coasts or south. 

While Hawks migrate in spring and autumn, they have a specific flight direction while migrating. 

Hawks avoid large bodies of water for safety in the spring. Falcons migrate globally from wintering grounds to breeding grounds. 

Adaptability with humans

Eagles are aggressive birds and can only think of food and prey. However, if they grow up living with humans they can adapt and bond with humans. 

Hawks are adaptable to the human environment and can bond with humans. Falcons are the most adaptable birds of prey in comparison to others. They can easily live in human surroundings and urban areas. 

How can you tell a hawk from an eagle in flight?

If you are looking from down at the sky and wondering who is flying an eagle or a hawk. Here is the way to identify, hawks have a short wingspan that is rounded. They are slow in the air and have sharp talons. 

In-flight Eagles have broad and very long wings that are rarely flapping. Their tails trails behind. 

Is a hawk more dangerous than a falcon?

Falcon and hawk are equally dangerous, both of their styles, features, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Falcons use their speed and beak to attack enemies while hawks are larger, and have sharp talons to attack opponents.  

But if you are thinking, can a hawk defeat a falcon? The answer is NO. 

A falcon can defeat a hawk with its speed in the air. 

Hawk vs falcon vs eagle! Who would win?

The birds of prey have strong feet, sharp talons, long tails, and ferociousness in them. 

Hawks are large in size and are most intelligent, while falcons are faster and defending but eagles have a powerful grip and the most powerful vision. 

A fight between Hawk, Eagle, and Falcon is a must-see once-in-a-lifetime experience. With their similar nature but different characteristics, the birds of prey are equally strong and dangerous. 

In a fight between hawk and eagle, the eagle would win, in a fight between hawk and falcon, falcon would win. On the other hand, eagles can defeat both falcon and hawk in one on one fights. 

It is hard to tell if they fight together with each other who would win.