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Hawk vs Falcon: What’s The Difference?

Hawks and falcons are widely known as birds of prey, and that is the main reason why people often don`t know the difference between them. At first glance, they may appear to be similar, but several things set them wide apart.

So what is the main difference between hawks and falcons? For starters, they are not in the same animal family, which pulls some basic differences, like size and general appearance. Hawks are larger than falcons, but falcons have longer wings that point at the end, while hawk wings are wider and rounded in the end.

Knowing to define hawks and falcons requires little more knowledge, so I will cover other differences and signature traits of these birds of prey. Stay with me, and you will be amazed by the information you will read.

Distinguishing Characteristics Of Hawks And Falcons

To begin with, hawks are part of the Accipitridae family of birds, while falcons are a part of the Falconidae family of birds. Those families have different traits, from size, color, wingspan to size.

  • Hawks are considered to be medium size birds and can grow to a maximum of 8-30 inches. If you take out of the equation the smallest sparrow hawks, they can grow between 18 and 30 inches.
  • Falcons are a little smaller and they can grow depending on the species between 8 and 26 inches. That may feel similar, but an average hawk is significantly bigger than a falcon.


Maybe the easiest way to identify a bird of prey is in the air, by looking at their wings. Falcons have long wings that are pointed at the end. Hawks have different shapes of wings, and they are wider when compared to their body.

Also, in the end, they are rounded which can be a great detail because it is easy to spot. The shape of the wings also shows what traits the bird has. Falcons are made for speed while hawks are masters at maneuvering.

The size and shape of the wings also define the technique used for flying. Because of their large wings, hawks fly with longer gliding intervals, with only an occasional flap of the wings. Falcons fly completely differently, with a lot of wing flapping and short intervals of gliding.

Another great way to make a distinction between them is by the way they hunt. They both catch the prey with their talons but deliver the finishing blow differently.

Hawks, after catching the target with their strong legs will crush it with its powerful talons.

Falcons will instead use their beak that has a special side tooth for an instant kill. Also, hawks tend to chase their prey, while falcons resemble a dive bomber when going for their prey.

Among harder to notice differences are the shape of the head and beak. The head may seem similar, but when you take a closer look, you can see that the hawk’s head is pointy, while falcons are round and short.

This little contrast can be seen just from some angles, so you should not pay that much attention to a head shape at the start. Differences between beaks are also subtle, but visible.

Falcons have a sharp bend on them so they can break the neck of their prey. Hawks have a smoother beak because they don`t use it directly in their hunt.

You can also look out for the difference in the color of the feathers. Hawks have brown cheeks whereas falcons have white ones.

Also, look for a color pattern on the belly of the bird. Hawks have brown stripes on their belly, with a white base at the top, whereas falcons have stripes on the whole belly, including the base.

The difference is that you will rarely be able to spot it in their eggs. Hawks can lay anywhere between 3 and 6 eggs, that are red-spotted, while falcons always 3 or 4 eggs with brown spots.

Hawk Falcon
Beak Beak with a smooth bend Sharp bent beak used for killing prey
Size 18-30 inches 8-26 inches
Call Resembles a scream with a kee-eee-arrr tone A shrieking sound that sounds as kak-kak-kak
Appearance Pointy head, wide wings rounded at the end, brown cheeks Round and short head, long wings pointed at the end, white cheeks

FAQ About Hawks And Falcons

Who is more powerful, a hawk or a falcon?

In a direct fight hawk would win because it is larger, heavier, and stronger. But if the contest was in speed falcon would win.

Is a red-tailed hawk a falcon?

A red-tailed hawk is a part of the Buteos genus, and in it are the largest hawks. There are different hawks in the Buteos genus and among them are red-tailed, broad-tailed, broad-winged, red-shouldered, Swainson hawks, and others. All these birds are considered to be hawks. Some hawks are identified as falcons, and the best known are pigeon hawk and duck hawk.

How big is a falcon compared to a hawk?

A hawk, depending on the species can grow between 8 and 30 inches in size. If we take out the smallest sparrow hawk, we narrow the size to between 18 and 30 inches. Falcons can grow anywhere between 8 and 26 inches, also depending on the species.

What is the difference between a hawk and an eagle?

Both, a hawk and an eagle are birds of prey, from the same family, but there are a lot of differences that keep them apart. A hawk is at best a medium size bird, while eagles are among the largest birds in the animal world. A hawk can weigh up to 8 pounds, while an eagle usually grows up to 18 pounds.

That also impacts the wingspan – hawks wingspan is around 5 feet, and an eagle can go up to 8 feet. There is also a difference in feather color. Hawks, depending on the species, can be reddish-brown or gray, with white feathers beneath, while eagles can be gray, brown, or golden.

Also, the color of the beaks is different – hawk beaks are black and eagles are yellow or white. Another interesting difference is the number of species – there are around 250 types of hawks, and on the other side, only 74 types of eagles are in the world.

Their reproduction and lifespan are also very different. Hawks lay eggs up to 5 times, and eagles only 2 times. An average lifespan of a hawk is 15 years, and an eagle is around 30 years.


So what did we learn about hawks and falcons? They are distance cousins, and if you are not that much into birds, you wouldn`t be able to tell them apart. But if you are into animals and birds, and these birds of prey intrigued you, from this article you learned all those subtle differences between them.

Hawks are larger birds that like to glide in flight. They catch and kill their prey with their powerful talons. Falcons are smaller but faster birds that dive on their prey like a bomber plane.

Their strong beaks are a great weapon for neutralizing small mammals that are usually on the falcon’s menu. These are just the major differences that should allow you to tell them apart.

I hope that I sparked your curiosity so you would want to learn more facts and interesting information about these magnificent flying beauties. Stay with me, because I will cover all sorts of interesting topics in the future!

James Smith

James is a passionate explorer and the creative mind behind, a platform dedicated to unraveling captivating distinctions. With an insatiable curiosity, he uncovers hidden nuances in various aspects of life, from cultural traditions to scientific phenomena. James believes that appreciating differences fosters personal growth and societal empathy.