Do Hawks Eat Snakes? (All You Need to Know)

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This article has everything if you’re looking for information about hawks and snakes. You’ll come out smarter than you went in!

Hawks are large birds of prey, and come in a variety of species.

Different types of hawks have different body sizes, lengths of tail feathers, and appearances.

Digesting their food requires a lot of time and energy. Hawks are carnivores and eat small animals for sustenance.

What Do Hawks Eat?

Hawks are predatory birds that eat snakes, along with other small animals in their diet. It is thought that hawks hunt slithering snakes on the ground from the sky.

This is because hawks have a better vision over snakes and are good at tracking them.

The majority of hawk species are natural enemies of snakes. Besides eagles, they are often the only birds that catch snakes when they have the chance. When they catch a snake, they rarely fail.

Hawks are particularly good at tracking snakes on the ground. As they soar high up in the blue sky, they can track slithering snakes on the ground.

This does not give the snake a chance to detect that a predator is nearby. Since snakes are plentiful in the area, they tend to make a hawk’s meal.

When hawks catch a snake, they get lots of nutrients their bodies can’t produce. Eating a snake means that hawks get extra protein and essential amino acids.

One perk of snake meat is that it contains a good amount of protein. Not to mention, snakes are really fast! One 100g serving has 93 calories.

What Kind Of Snakes Do Hawks Eat? Do Hawks Eat Rattlesnakes?

Many hawks are carnivores by nature and can be seen hunting down different species of snakes. Some famous varieties include:

Red-tailed hawks:

Red-tailed hawks are excellent at locating the snake on the ground below them. With a dive and quick swoop, red-tailed hawks eat and can get back in the air with their catch around their feathered legs.

Red-tailed hawks not only eat small snakes, but they also like bullsnakes and rattlesnakes.

Red-shouldered hawks:

The red-shouldered hawk is a North American raptor found in wooded areas.

Red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks are two predatory species that help maintain the balance of predator and prey in woodland and grassland areas.

Roles include different kinds of animals depending on what is available in their environment.

Their diet includes snakes, rodents, and other small animals such as shrews, skinks, and voles. 

Depending on prey availability, they may also eat rattlesnakes, garter snakes, black rat snakes, and other species of snake.


Sparrowhawks are smaller and lighter in size, which makes them good for hunting chirping songbirds, small birds, rodents, small mammals, and insects.

Sparrowhawks are often up high in the sky, often hiding among branches with leaves to jump their prey. Despite their small size, they cannot prey on snakes.

Cooper’s hawks:

Cooper’s hawks are perfectly adapted for hunting in dense woodland areas. 

They have rounded wings and a long tail, which allows them to move deftly through tight spots. They’re also very opportunistic, especially when nesting is involved!

These birds hunt songbirds, like sparrowhawks, doves, quails, woodpeckers, bats, mice and squirrels. They won’t eat snakes though.


Chickenhawks are predatory animals mostly found in open areas, forests, and grasslands. 

They weigh ten pounds on average and can grow to be two feet tall. Chickenhawks feast on small birds, rodents, lizards, squirrels, frogs, and snakes.

King snakes eat whatever they can find. They don’t really have a favorite type of food, since they mostly just take what’s available to them.

Do Hawks Eat These Snakes? What Type Of Animals Prey On Snakes?

Hawks are known to eat a variety of snakes. Some of the most common species that they consume include:


North American king snakes are native to the US and are non-venomous colubrids. They’re medium-sized and have a wide range of colors and patterns.

Although they are small and threatened by predators like red-tailed hawks, these snakes have a number of admirers, especially those who want to take on their various roles in the animal kingdom.


Rattlesnakes are powerful predators on their own – and they need to be, seeing as how we’re trying to keep them from our ball fields. Their patterned bodies make them masters of camouflage.

However, hawks fight with these snakes and make a meal out of rattlesnakes. Hawks are much faster than regular snakes and they’re precise as well.

Poisonous Snakes: 

Although most snakes are poisonous, they’re not safe from predators. Mature hawks is an example of a bird that feeds on poisonous snakes.

If a snake is poisonous and the hawk sees it, the hawk will kill the snake in order to protect itself. Killing the snake guarantees that the hawk won’t be poisoned by its bite.

Garter snakes:

The most harmless of the garter snakes is not venomous or aggressive. This is why they make great pets! However, some species may become aggressive when defending themselves or hunting for food.

Hawks are indiscriminate eaters and will eat any species of garter snake available to them.

Copperhead snakes:

Copperhead snakes derive from the term “ambush predator.” They are excellent at waiting for their prey to fall into their sight. When they spot something, they strike and then track it down.

They have heat-sensing pits on their head that let them know the whereabouts of other items. Hawks hunt and kill copperhead snakes, which are one of the hawks’ main food sources.

Black Snakes:

Black snakes are not venomous and they’re typically not aggressive. This means that they do not try to attack humans or animals unless they are provoked.

Black snakes are great swimmers and usually only bite if threatened. They’ll usually run away if given the opportunity, but when they do bite, their bites are deadly enough to kill large mammals like raccoons and hawks.

Rat snakes:

A rat snake is a black snake that isn’t aggressive. They are generally non-lethal to humans, plants, and other living things. When threatened, they’ll flee most of the time but may bite.

Black rat snakes are one of the prey items for hawks. They capture these snakes much more quickly than other creatures because they’re so sneaky.


Bull snakes are typically non-venomous and eat primarily rodents and lizards. Occasionally, they may even prey upon birds. 

The species is native to the U.S and North America and can be found in various habitats ranging from woodland forests to wetland areas.

Although they can grow to be 8 ft long, hawks aren’t afraid to hunt and eat these snakes down.

How Does A Hawk Hunt And Eat A Snake?

All the hawks have 5-6 times stronger vision than humans, which means they’re able to see their surroundings with exceptional accuracy. 

The structure of their eyes gives them trinocular vision, so they can spot their prey from high up in a tree or sky while flying.

These birds love to attack their prey so powerfully that they can caught it before the victim even has a chance to realize what’s happening. 

They are so quick and precise in their action that they might have caught their prey before it ever knows it was under attack. 

Sometimes, birds attack their target using their sharp talons and beaks. Smaller, non-venomous snakes can be killed off as easily as possible with talons. 

However, larger, potentially venomous snakes will require more active measures. Snakes are either killed and dragged to their nest or decapitated before they’re eaten on-site.

Do Harris’s Hawks And Red-Tailed Hawks Both Eat Rattlesnakes?

Yes, both Harris’s and red-tailed hawks will eat rattlesnakes–though we know that the red-tailed hawk is bigger. The size advantage it has over rattlesnakes gives it the edge.

The red-tailed hawk and the harriss’s hawk don’t share the same eating habits. The red-tailed hawks are fond of rattlesnakes and will eat them if they spot them. 

On the other hand, Harris’s hawks rarely eat rattlesnakes. They have been known to feed on pigeons, lizards, and a variety of birds.

What Happens When A Rattlesnake And A Hawk Face Off? Can A Rattlesnake Harm A Hawk?

Yes, a rattlesnake can kill a hawk if given the training and opportunity.

Rattlesnakes usually do not stand a chance against an experienced adult or mature hawk as they have both precise actions and fast reflexes. 

An inexperienced hawks is the one most likely to be killed by a rattlesnake.

Snake venom can have various effects on hawks including not being able to think clearly, leading to either faster or slower reflexes. If they are slowed, the hawk becomes the hunted.

Do Hawks Eat Dead Snakes?

Yes, hawks will eat dead animals, including snakes. They’ll eat living or dead animals- it doesn’t matter to them. If they can digest it, they’ll start eating it right away.

Another example of a clever bird is the hawk. Hawks may avoid eating the head altogether due to the toxic poisons that might lurk inside.

Final Thoughts

Most hawks in the family of raptors eat snakes as a part of their diet. Few hawks do not hunt snakes, mainly because of their limitations, but most of them do. 

They are intelligent and swift, which gives them an advantage over the snake.


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