Do Hawks Eat Rabbits

Do Hawks Eat Rabbits? Rabbit Guide 2024

Rabbits are such cute and fluffy animals that you probably can’t imagine them being a food source for other animals. But the truth is that various land and air predators prey on rabbits, both wild and domestic.

So do hawks eat rabbits, and how can you protect your cutesy bun? 

Hawks are birds of prey with a versatile diet. If there are rabbits in the area where the hawks live, these aerial killers will surely hunt, kill, and eat the rabbits. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your pet rabbit from predators like hawks, especially if the bunny lives outside. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide to hawks and rabbits and why these birds of prey feast on bunnies.

Do Hawks Prey on Rabbits?

Hawks have a versatile diet. They eat what prey they can find, and wild and pet rabbits are part of this bird of prey’s food source.

Other animals hawks prey on include:

  • Mice and other rodents
  • Voles  
  • Snakes 
  • Lizards
  • Birds
  • Bats
  • Land crabs  

These birds are carnivores, and they dine on live animals they hunt and kill, and also carrion (already dead animals, #roadkill).

There are more than 200 hawk species in the world, and 25 of these are in the United States.

Hawks can be found in a variety of habitats and climates. However, most hawks live in open areas like fields and deserts where prey can easily be spotted. These birds can also be found in woodlands, urban areas, forest edges, canyons, and wetlands.

These hawk species are known to prey on rabbits:

  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Red-shouldered hawks
  • Harriers
  • Cooper’s hawks (rarely eat rabbits)
  • Northern goshawks
  • Rough-legged hawks
  • Sharp-shinned hawks

Why Do Hawks Eat Rabbits?

Why Do Hawks Eat Rabbits

Hawks eat rabbits for three main reasons:

  1. The birds of prey are carnivorous and a rabbit is an animal, made of flesh, fur, and bone.
  2. Hawks rely on a wide variety of food sources depending on what’s available and the birds’ habitat. Rabbits may be available and live in the area where the hawks live.
  3. Rabbits are crepuscular animals – they are active at dusk and dawn. And coincidentally, a hawk mostly hunts at dusk, just before nightfall. So it’s likely that a rabbit and a hawk will cross paths, making it easy for the hawk to prey on the rabbit.

How Does a Hawk Hunt a Rabbit?

Since a hawk is a bird of prey, it’ll hunt, kill, and eat a rabbit when it spots one. The rabbit can be a wild one out in the field or it can be your bunny bestie who’s foraging in your backyard.

Hawks have various hunting methods in their arsenal for hunting rabbits (and other animals): 

  • Aerial pursuit: Fast-faced hunting where the hawk relies on surprise, speed, and acrobatics to successfully catch its prey. Other birds are most typically the prey caught by this hunting method. 
  • Low soaring: Hawks fly closer to the ground, usually in a straight line. The aerial killer relies on speed and purpose to make the catch. The hawk wants to scare the rabbit or other small mammals to scurry away and expose themselves to an attack.  
  • High soaring: The opposite of low soaring where the predator flies high in the sky. Once a prey animal is spotted, the hawk swoops down for the catch. 
  • Cooperative hunting: Hawks work in a group to hunt, and this is especially the case with larger prey. One hawk will fly into an area so the prey can retreat, while the other hawks wait ahead to catch the prey. 
  • Perch and swoop: The hawk usually “rests” in a high tree branch from where they can watch the terrain. Once the hawk spots the rabbit or other prey, they quickly swoop down.
  • Hover and swoop: The hawk will fly low over an open area. Once it spots small prey, the bird hovers over the animal before diving down for the catch.    

Hawks also use their powerful talons to grab their prey. Since they have four talons, one facing backward and three facing forward, the hawk is able to firmly grab hold of an animal like a rabbit. 

The talons are also very sharp, meaning they can stab the rabbit just once to instantly kill it. 

A hawk’s talons can lock into place, so once the bird of prey grabs onto the rabbit, they hold onto it when they fly away. Hawks can easily pick up baby rabbits, and large hawks like the red-tailed hawk, can pick up and carry adult rabbits that weigh up to five pounds. 

You may want to keep kittens, puppies, and small-breed dogs and cats safe too since a hawk can and will hunt your pets if hungry.  

The hawk’s talons grip prey animals firmly, causing the prey to choke and die since air flow is constricted.  

Ways to Protect Your Rabbits From Hawks

It’s imperative that you protect your rabbits from hawks. Here’s how: 

  • Get your bun a sturdy wooden hutch with a roof so the hawk can’t swoop in and feast on your fluffy ball of cuteness. 
  • Make your backyard unappealing to predators. Hang reflective discs (old CDs) and install motion-detection lights. 
  • Keep rabbits indoors whenever possible, and when your bun has outside playtime, be there to supervise.
  • Cover the run and rabbit play area. 
  • Install bird audio devices that send out a hunting call for larger birds of prey. Hawks will think there are predators in the area and stay away.  
  • Cut down tall trees. 
  • Place decoys like scarecrows and a large owl statue in your yard. 

What Other Kinds of Birds Prey on Rabbits?

Other birds of prey that hunt, kill, and eat rabbits are:

  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Crows
  • Falcons

My Last Bunny Thoughts

There are many different predators that eat rabbits, and as a responsible pet owner, you want to ensure your pet bunny remains safe, happy, and healthy. 

Make sure you supervise your bun when they play and forage outside, and if your bunny sleeps outside, ensure the hutch and rabbit living area is predator (and weather) proof.  

To learn more about rabbit predators, check out these articles: 

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