How Much Weight Can a Hawk Carry? Answer Will Surprise You!


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

how much weight can a hawk carry

Hawks are known to be fierce predators that swoop in on their prey, which are usually small animals. Their hunting prowess is often a concern, mostly for those who own small pets, which brings the question of how much weight can a hawk carry.

A hawk can’t carry more than what they weigh, and since they’re usually no more than 12 pounds, they can only target under that number. Often, their interest will range from 1 pounds to 5 pounds in order to fly.

How Much Weight Can a Hawk Pick Up?


If you’re going to make a list of predators, a hawk should be on it. This bird of precision has eyes that greatly exceed our own. When you pair that with their ability to fly quietly and fast, they’re the birds that will capture their prey in a blink of an eye.

While these skills are an impressive feat for nature, they can be threatening for those who have small pets. What is the possibility of this creature diving down to snatch up your little one? And if there is, how big of prey can a hawk carry?

It all depends on the hawk’s size and species as for the weight they can pick up and fly with it.

Hawk Species Minimum Size Minimum Weight
Short-tailed Hawk 24 inches 1.1 pounds
Ferruginous Hawk 22 inches 4.5 pounds
Common Black Hawk 21 inches 1.8 pounds
Rough-legged Hawk 20 inches 2.1 pounds
Black Sparrowhawk 20 inches 2.2 pounds
Red-shouldered Hawk 19 inches 1.3 pounds
Harris Hawk 18 1.5 pounds
Red-tailed Hawk 18 inches 3 pounds
Zone-tailed Hawk 18 inches 2 pounds
Northern Goshawk 18 inches 3 pounds
Northern Harrier 17 inches Below 1 pound
Swainson’s Hawk 17 inches 1.5 pounds
Broad-winged Hawk 17 inches 1 pound
Cooper’s Hawk 15 inches 1.2 pounds
Grey Goshawk 15 inches 1.5 pounds
Sharp-shinned Hawk 9 – 12 inches Below 1 pound

Related: Sharp-shinned hawk vs Cooper’s hawk: Answer Will Surprise You!

What Do Hawks Like to Pick Up the Most?


Hawks are part of the Accipitridae tree, home of the same origins as many predatory birds known as the raptors. So, they usually like to pick up what they’re planning on eating for the day. So what animal can a hawk pick up?

The menu choices are a wide diet that consists of a variety of tiny animals.

Some hawks, like a Red-tailed hawk, prey on animals they can easily grab with their talons, which include smaller birds, little rodents, lizards, insects, rabbits, fish, amphibians, and even snakes.

You can even see a hawk pick up a chicken if they want to. Sometimes they pick up some vegetation, including plants and nuts, for extra nutrition.

How Big of Animals or Pets Can Hawks Carry?


How many pounds can a hawk carry? Though they’re not usually the type to target pet animals, it’s still important to note that the biggest size of the red-tailed hawk species has the potential to pick up anything that weighs at most 5 pounds. That’s the size of a small dog or even a full-grown cat.

These strong birds aren’t able to take flight trying to carry anything that weighs more than they do, and most of the time, they don’t weigh that much. The Ferruginous hawk, seen as the largest hawk in the world, weighs around 4.5 pounds.

Even if a hawk could pick up something almost as heavy as they were, it would still be a struggle. Lifting things requires a great deal of strength, and that energy is better suited to spend on tinier prey and stuff they need to create their nest. Get the facts about birds that can carry the most weight!

So a hawk carrying dogs or cats is an unlikely scenario.

If you’re planning on protecting your pet, please note that hawks are federally protected by law. You can’t hurt them unless you want to be imprisoned or charged with a hefty fine, even if you were trying to protect your pet during the exchange. 

Tips to Protect Your Pets From Hawks


1. Stay close to your pet

Hawks generally won’t go close to any creature that’s being guarded by a human larger than they are. If you see a hawk approaching, run in the hawk’s direction, creating as much sound as possible while moving your arms, and it should scare them off.

2. Don’t let your pet stay outside alone

If you’re not there to keep your pet company, that will leave them vulnerable all alone. So, don’t ever leave them outside by themselves, especially when the sun’s light is still in the sky. After all, hawks mostly hunt during the day.

3. Create a roofed shelter for your pet

This roofed shelter is not necessarily the usual pet house you’d first think of. If your pet is fond of staying outside like in your backyard, you can cover a certain portion of that area with a mesh wire hanging from above.

4. Don’t keep any bird feeders around

Get rid of any food sources around your area, the most common being bird feeders. A hawk coming in for some bird food might change their mind the moment they see your pet wandering around your home.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can a hawk pick up a 20-pound dog?

How big of a dog can a hawk pick up? A frequent addition to the hawk menu, specifically a red-tailed hawk, is a black-tailed rabbit known to weigh around 6 pounds. A weight a hawk can lift if they try hard enough. That amount is way more than smaller dog breeds.

So, it definitely is possible to pick up a dog, can a hawk pick up a 10 lb dog? Unlikely, and this makes the possibility of picking up a 20-pound dog quite slim.

 Even if they tried, they’re most likely gonna drop them mid-air due to the heaviness, causing injury and sometimes death since it’s beyond the weight a hawk can carry in its talons.

Can a hawk take a 10-pound cat?

Now, cats aren’t usually the first thing you’d see on the hawk menu, but there is still a possibility of them getting picked up. However, the weight difference for cats is either the same or heavier, especially for a 10-pound cat. That isn’t a weight a falcon can carry.

However, if a cat were to attack first, the hawk might try to fight back with any skill they can. Only in situations like if there’s a severe lack of food options will a hawk pick up a cat.

Interesting posts:  Falcons vs Hawks: what’s the difference?

Why are hawks flying around your house?

A spiritual reason would be the world telling you to take a leap toward learning the world. Still, practically, this hawk behavior is most likely due to an action called thermals. This is when hawks stay in the air with the help of rising air.

With the help of thermals, they stay in the air with minimum energy spent to wait for the perfect moment to attack their prey. If they’re flying around your house, they probably found something they’re planning to snatch.


So, to finish off the question of “How much weight can a hawk carry?” a hawk really can’t carry anything worth more than their own weight. So, if you’re worried about a hawk preying on your pet, the chances are smaller the bigger they are compared to the hawk.

Hawks are strong and fierce predators ready to take anything that catches their eye but you should remember never to hurt them if you’re trying to stop them from doing so.

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