Last Updated on January 31, 2022 by Guillermina
What is the difference between an eagle and a hawk? These majestic birds are easy to differentiate once you know what you’re looking for!
An eagle and hawk are known to be the fearsome predators of the sky. They are both from the Accipitridae family of birds and even the same genera, so, understandably, many people would be confused by their similarities. However, there are a few key differences that you should be aware of to sort out the two birds.
What are these hawk and eagle differences, and can you spot them that easily? Read on to learn more and compare the eagle vs hawk!
Table of Contents
What Is An Eagle?
The eagle is a bird of prey from the Accipitridae family.
They are set apart due to their large sizes and exceptional hunting skills, thanks to their strong bills and wings and excellent vision. They are also long-lived birds, with a lifespan of up to 50 years.
The eagle is seen in popular culture as a symbol of power, strength, and freedom. It’s no surprise that various countries feature the bird prominently in their national crests. The United States, in particular, has proudly used the bald eagle as its representative.
What Is A Hawk?
The hawk is a bird of prey from the Accipitridae family. The term is used somewhat generically and can be used as a blanket term for a large group. However, they are set apart by how their wingspan tapers off in a round shape and how long their tails get.
Aside from their wings and tails, hawks are well-known for their powerful and sharp talons and beaks. These tools are the perfect hunting weapon for their activity in the daytime. They also have a great sense of sight and hearing, which aid in their survey of the land for prey.
Hawks are symbols of spirituality, independence, victory, and sometimes, ruthlessness.
What Is The Difference Between An Eagle And A Hawk?
Here are some of the key differences between the two birds that will help you differentiate them out in the wild.
Here we can compare both the size of their body and the total wingspan of the birds.
Eagles are much longer in terms of the wingspan, measuring from wingtip to wingtip. This more enormous wingspan creates a greater lift, which eases their flight patterns. Despite differences in the size of species in their categories, eagles are known to fly faster than hawks.
However, they are slower than another bird of prey – the fearsome Peregrine falcon!
The diet of the eagle and the hawk are very similar. Their predation instinct helps balance ecosystems and go after small mammals and even other, smaller birds. Some raptors are even known to “fish” by swooping into the water’s surface and grabbing a fish that happened to swim too close with their powerful and sharp talons.
The main difference between the two owes to their difference in strength. Eagles have the edge over hawks, mainly due to their size difference. Because of this, the eagle can hunt reptiles such as snakes. They can also hunt larger birds like ducks and geese.
As mentioned in the section about prey and diet, eagles have a significant advantage over hawks.
This parameter is mainly measured through grip strength. While both the hawk and the eagle have impressively sharp talons, how strong and tight the eagle’s grip has on its prey is more impressive than that of a hawk’s. This shows how much they can lift and carry away during a hunt and how much they can attack and rip apart some of the prey they have caught.
In terms of color, the variations available might make it hard to distinguish an eagle from a hawk. Different kinds of two birds may overlap in colors and patterns. But there are also the unique looks that make certain species easily recognizable and even hard to ignore!
One of these is the look of the American bald eagle. It is a beautiful bird with a rich brown plumage all over its body. The distinct white head – which lends to its “bald” moniker – is iconic in the animal kingdom. When you see this raptor, you won’t doubt that it’s a majestic eagle!
What kind of sounds do the hawk and the eagle make? You are likely familiar with the famous sound effect of a shrill and terrifying call used so often in TV shows and movies. While you might think this call represents a bald eagle, you have been misled!
This scream belongs to the red-tailed hawk. The bald eagle’s call is chirpy and even upbeat compared to the iconic screech of the hawk.
While both the eagle and the hawk choose to build their nest and incubate their eggs high up on trees, eagles can also use other, more interesting places to take care of their brood.
Both eagles and hawks return to the same nest year after year, and you will notice that eagles’ nests are also significantly more prominent. This is despite a hawk being more likely to lay more eggs: on average, hawks lay 2 to 5 eggs in a brood, while the eagle can lay 1 to 3 eggs in a brood.
If you see a nest overlooking a cliffside, that is most likely to be an eagle’s nest.
What is the difference between an eagle and a hawk? There are several visual, audio, and behavioral cues that will help you set an eagle and a hawk apart.
It will be easier to set them apart after you have observed more in the wild.
Have you ever seen an eagle or a hawk outdoors? What made you determine whether it was one of the two birds? Let us know your story in the comments below.
Are hawks bigger than eagles?
No, in fact it's the other way around. Eagles are significantly bigger than hawks in both the size of their body and their wingspan.