When asked "what do hawks eat?" many birders will respond with rodents, insects, fish, or even carrion. While these are often preferred prey, they aren't the only potential meals for these birds. Many birds of prey regularly hunt small animals, and they won't distinguish between a wild creature and a beloved pet. But do hawks eat dogs and cats? Many pet owners fear for their pets when raptors are in the area, but there are easy steps every pet owner can take to protect their animal from becoming prey.
The pets most at risk from hungry birds of prey are small animals that spend time outdoors unsupervised. While bird attacks on pets are not common, birds have been recorded as attacking:
Any small pet, however, can be at risk from a bird attack. Large raptors will routinely attack animals that weigh up to 20 pounds as part of a hunt. Many birds of prey will attack even larger animals, and even humans if the bird feels its nest or young are threatened.
Birds of prey do not hunt for sport and they do not simply seek to terrorize other animals for fun or games. When a raptor attacks, it is either seeking food or protecting its territory, usually around a nesting area. The birds of prey most noted for attacking pets include:
Smaller backyard hawks, such as the Cooper's hawk and sharp-shinned hawk, will not usually attack a pet unless they are exceptionally desperate. These hawks typically hunt much smaller game, such as mice or small songbirds. Nevertheless, any hawk, owl, or falcon may attack a pet under the right—or wrong—circumstances.
There are several easy steps pet owners can take to protect their pets from bird attacks.
The best thing a pet owner can do to safeguard their companions against bird attacks is to be aware of birds in the area. If raptors are known to nest or roost nearby, avoid walking or exercising pets in that area. In extreme cases of highly aggressive birds, pet owners can contact local wildlife management officials for an evaluation of whether or not the bird can be deterred or relocated if necessary.
Note: All birds of prey are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and it is illegal to injure, capture, or kill any raptor, or to disturb its nest or offspring. Protecting one's pet is not an acceptable defense claim for harming a bird, and pet owners may be subject to fines or other penalties if they harm wild birds.
In addition to protecting pets from hawks, owls and other raptors, taking steps to keep a pet safe will help them avoid other hazards. Birds of prey are not the only hunters that will target pets, and protected pets are much safer from coyotes, foxes, bears, and other predators. A protected pet is also less likely to be harmed by malicious humans or to encounter other neighborhood dangers, such as busy streets or untended rodent poison.
Though rare, bird attacks on pets do happen, and hawks may eat pets if they have the opportunity. Pet owners who know how to protect their pets can enjoy their companionship without fear of attacks from above.
Here is a great way to deter these birds from small pets.