Hawks and owls are both powerful hunters. Have you ever wondered what would happen if they were to fight each other? Let’s take a look at this intriguing match-up of hawk vs. owl and discuss who would win.
What You'll Learn Today
What Is a Hawk?
A hawk is a large diurnal bird of prey, meaning it hunts other animals and is most active during the day. There are many species of hawk, most of which belong to the Accipiter genus.
Hawks are found throughout the world; Antarctica is the only continent where they don’t live. They can be found in many different kinds of environments and habitats, from tropical rainforests to deserts to mountainous regions.
Most hawks are 10 to 20 inches long, though some are larger. This makes them generally smaller than eagles and roughly the same size as many owl species.
Hawks are skilled hunters. Their excellent vision helps them stalk prey, their quiet flight allows them to sneak up on it, and their sharp talons and beak enable them to capture it and tear into its flesh.
Hawks are carnivores that eat a variety of smaller animals. These include frogs, fish, rodents, small reptiles, and other birds.
What Is an Owl?
An owl is a nocturnal bird of prey that typically does all of its hunting after dark. Owls belong to a wide variety of genera and come in many different shapes and sizes.
Owls are found in many parts of the world, in every continent except Antarctica. Like hawks, their preferred habitat depends on the species and can vary widely, from rainforest to tundra to grassland and everything in between.
The smallest owls may grow only 5 inches long, but the largest ones can reach lengths of nearly 30 inches. The majority of owl species tend toward the smaller sizes.
Like hawks, owls are excellent hunters. Their soundless flight combined with the cover of darkness makes them nearly impossible for prey to detect before it’s too late.
Owls are carnivores, and specific dietary preferences vary by species. Most owls prefer to eat insects and rodents, though some may also prey on fish and other small animals.
Hawk vs. Owl: Side-By-Side Comparison
Hawks and owls may appear pretty similar except that one is active during the day and the other is more active at night. But in terms of hunting and fighting ability, how do these two predatory birds stack up against each other?
Hawks are fairly strong, but they are more lightweight than owls. The increased body mass owls enjoy gives them an edge in the strength department.
A fight between a hawk and an owl could be compared to two wrestlers from different weight classes going up against each other. The heavyweight wrestler would have an obvious strength advantage against his lightweight opponent.
Of course, the lightweight competitor would have his own set of advantages. But strength would not be one of them.
In the same way, hawks have other skills that could help them in a fight against an owl. But in terms of strength, the owl wins every time.
This category again comes down to weight. Hawks are more lightweight than owls, giving them greater agility.
Hawks also have a more streamlined body shape than owls, which further improves their agility. Owls are fast, strong, and sneaky, but eagles are quicker and more adept at darting out of the way.
Because of their increased agility, a hawk might be able to avoid an owl’s clutches in a fight. That said, if the owl manages to get its talons on the hawk, the edge would quickly swing back in the owl’s favor.
The good news for the hawk is that, since it is so quick and agile, it would likely be able to keep the owl at a safe distance.
Both hawks and owls use their excellent eyesight to track down prey, and both snatch it up in their powerful talons. The way they hunt is extremely similar.
However, owls are generally quieter than hawks. While both birds of prey have the ability to sneak up on their quarry, the silent flight owls are capable of is what makes them truly deadly.
Owls also have sharper, more powerful talons which they use to crush and carry prey. Because they are so strong, they can take on larger animals than hawks can, which may provide an advantage in a fight against a hawk.
That said, hawks have larger, sharper beaks which can do some serious damage in a fight. However, if an owl were to sneak up on and grab a hawk, it would likely be too injured to inflict much damage on the owl with its beak.
In terms of hunting and fighting ability, the owl has a slight edge in this category.
Hawk vs. Owl: Who Would Win?
It’s worth noting that, though hawks and owls frequently live in the same areas, they tend to leave each other alone–they rarely fight over food or territory. This might be due to the fact that hawks are diurnal while owls are nocturnal, so they rarely cross each other’s paths.
But, if a hawk and an owl were to fight each other, there’s a pretty good chance the owl would win due to its increased strength and soundless hunting ability.
Admittedly, this battle could go either way–especially if a larger hawk took on a smaller owl. But the owl would still have the advantage of launching a surprise attack.
Owls are generally fearless and can be aggressive; meanwhile, hawks are highly intelligent and typically try to avoid taking risks. This would mean the owl would undoubtedly instigate the fight, leaving the hawk to defend itself against a stronger opponent which has the ability to attack without warning.
The hawk might be able to escape from the owl with its increased agility. But, while this would enable the hawk to save itself, it would not result in a victory.
So, all things considered, the owl would probably take the victory in this match-up.
For an example of how this fight might go in real life, check out the following video of a red-tailed hawk attacking a great horned owl that invaded its nest:
If a hawk and an owl were to face off against each other, the owl would most likely win because it is bigger, stronger, and can attack soundlessly. Unless a very large hawk were fighting a very small owl, the best the hawk could do is use its speed and agility to escape from the owl.