You are currently viewing What are 5 similarities and differences between hawks and falcons?

What are 5 similarities and differences between hawks and falcons?

Hawks and falcons are equally fascinating, although there are many people in the World who can’t tell the differences between hawks and falcons. This is because of their similar silhouettes and shared range.

It may interest you to know that falcons and hawks are two distinct birds of prey. Despite having stark differences, the two killer birds are often used synonymously by many people.

Falcons and hawks have contrasting physical characteristics, hunting techniques, and habitats, there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences, such as the shape of their outstretched wings, body size, flying style, and beak shape.

So, let’s learn the similarities and differences between falcons and hawks and clear up any confusion you may have regarding the two birds.

Similarities between Hawks and Falcons

1. Physical appearance

One of the most significant similarity between a hawk and a falcon is their appearance, People easily confuse hawks and falcons for one another because of how similar they look. They both have sharp talons, hooked beaks, and similar plumage, all with subtle differences.

Also, neither of them has uniquely distinctive features like crests or sweeping tails like some other birds. Like most birds of prey, female hawks and falcons are bigger than their male counterparts.

2. Habitat

Falcons live everywhere in the world; you’ll find them in the Arctic tundra, forests, grasslands and deserts. They’ll live anywhere they can find food and are adapted to living in cities.

Likewise, Hawks are present on every planet except Antarctica. They live in forested areas and build their nest in tall trees. They prefer wide-open spaces, and do well near coasts where shorebirds are
common, but can be found from the tundra to deserts to forests.

You can also find them on mountainous plains, marshes and woodlands.

3. Range

One reason hawks and falcons are so often confused is because they share the same range in the US and are migratory like many birds. Despite the peregrine falcon being among the world’s most common birds of prey, hawks — the red-tailed hawk, especially — are more common and widespread throughout the country.

4. Social Behavior

Hawks are monogamous; they mate for life, but they are solitary animals.

You’ll only find a hawk mingling closely with other hawks during breeding and migration seasons. Some hawks, like the red-shouldered hawks, do not migrate and so have zero reasons to flock together.

Similarly, Falcons are monogamous. Outside the breeding season, you’ll find a falcon living alone, as most species are solitary. They also show attachment to their nesting sites and will try to return there after migration.

fun facts about Falcons: similarities and differences between hawks and falcons

5. Plumage

Hawks and falcons generally have greyish plumage with a pale underbelly. Upon closer inspection, you’ll find some hawks with brownish feathers and falcons with bluish feathers. Also, hawks tend to have brown cheeks, while falcons have white ones.

Differences between Hawks and falcons

Now that we’ve gotten our falcon and hawk similarities out of the way, let’s take a look at the differences between hawks and falcons:

1. Size

Although size is not an absolute way to tell the difference between them, falcons are petite and measure somewhere between 8 to 25 inches. They tend to be medium-sized raptors compared to hawks.

As a matter of fact, the world’s largest falcon, the gyrfalcon, can grow up to a beak-to-tail length of 30 inches.

Interestingly, the title of the smallest raptor in the world is jointly held by two falcons; the black-legged falconet and the Bornean falconet.

2. Different beak shape

If you get the chance to observe falcons and hawks closely, you’ll notice a slight difference in how their heads are shaped.

A falcon’s head is short and round, while a hawk’s head is pointy. Hawks lack the notch at the ends of their beaks which is used by falcons to kill their prey.

The top beak of a falcon has a notch called a tomial tooth on its underside. It looks like a small bump. Meanwhile hawks have smoothly curved beaks.

3. Speed

Regarding flight speed, falcons are faster than all other birds. Their slender wings help them cut sharply through the wind.

In fact, a peregrine falcon can fly at a speed of 320 km per hour, making it the fastest bird and fastest animal in the world.

Hawks are also speedsters, but they come up far behind falcons. Their normal flying speed is 20-40 mph, but they can reach up to 120 mph when diving for prey.

Similarities and differences between hawks and falcons

4. Hunting skills

Some hawks hunt by soaring high in circles, searching for prey. Others will perch stealthily on a tree or some other vantage point and swoop in quickly once a catch is spotted.

Hawks kill prey with their sharp talons and use their strong, curved beaks to tear the flesh off their prey.

On the other hand, falcons hunt by diving at the prey from great heights. They strike it with clenched talons and cause death by the impact. That method is called stopping. They also have the added advantage of using their tomial tooth to break their prey’s neck and snap their vertebrae.

5. Nesting location

If you chance upon a nest that may belong to a falcon or a hawk, you can easily tell which bird the nest belongs to by its location and build.

A hawk’s nesting site is usually built elaborately with twigs, pine needles, bark and other soft plant matter. Red-tailed hawks construct their nest in tall trees, at least 4 to 21 meters above the ground.

While falcons don’t give much thought to constructing comfy homes. They make their homes in tree holes, cliff ledges, river buffs, and abandoned nests of other large birds. Peregrine falcons have adapted to live on the ledges of bridges and skyscrapers in major cities.


Overall, both birds exhibit remarkable adaptations for hunting, but their differences reflect their specific ecological niches and hunting strategies.

Clement Christopher

Clement Christopher is a content writer with a passion for writing unique and compelling contents about nature that grab readers attention. For the past 4 years, he has been working with clients to write contents that not only looks great but also spur interest in nature. His knack for nature compels him to volunteer at some animal shelter and also visit some zoos. He is always looking for opportunities to write and bring a unique perspective and creative approach to every project.

Leave a Reply