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How Much Weight Can a Hawk Carry? (Facts & FAQ)

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Hawks are a bird of prey. There are more than 200 species of hawk, globally, and around 25 different species in the US. Different species of hawks are different sizes, but one can generally carry up to its own body weight.

With most hawks weighing around 2 or 3 pounds, this means that a typical hawk can carry around 2 or 3 pounds in weight. While that is impressive considering the size of the bird, it means that hawks are unlikely to be able to carry pet dogs or cats, although they may be able to carry a small kitten or puppy.

Read on for more information on hawks, including how much weight they can carry and how they compare to other birds.

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About Hawks

Hawks are birds of prey that typically live in woodlands. They have acute vision and are known to be intelligent birds. They are renowned for being highly skilled hunters.

There are more than 200 species of hawks around the world with approximately 25 species in the US alone. Hawks are found on all continents except Antarctica. The red-tailed hawk is likely the most commonly seen in the US They are seen above open fields and have large wings. The red-tailed hawk can weigh up to 3 pounds.

a cooper's hawk bird on tree branch
Image Credit: SK_Zurcher, Pixabay

How Much Weight Can a Hawk Carry?

The carrying capacity of a hawk depends on its body weight. Its wings are capable of carrying roughly double the weight of the bird, which means that most hawks are capable of carrying up to their weight, although most species will usually hunt and carry animals smaller than this.

The Red-tailed hawk is the most common in the US and weighs between 2 and 3 pounds, which means that it is capable of carrying the same amount—between 2 and 3 pounds.

How Do They Compare to Other Animals?

Eagles are typically the strongest birds, with the harpy eagle believed to be the strongest bird, capable of carrying sloths and monkeys weighing as much as 30 pounds. Let’s check out how other birds compare to hawks in the chart below.

Bird Species Carrying Capacity
Harpy eagle 30 pounds
Steller’s sea eagle 20 pounds
Bald eagle 10 pounds
Red-tailed hawk 3 pounds
Harris hawk 1.5 pounds
Pigeon 0.1 pound

eagle, hawk, & pigeon weight capacity

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What Is the Most Common Type of Hawk?

The Red-tailed Hawk is believed to be the most common hawk in North America and one of the most common in the world. It is one of a number of species commonly referred to as chickenhawks because it will hunt chickens, although it is more likely to kill and consume the chicken on the ground rather than carry it off.

What Is the Strongest Type of Hawk?

The ferruginous hawk is the largest hawk in the US and one of the largest globally. It typically weighs around 4 pounds and can carry roughly its weight. However, like most hawks, it will usually hunt and carry smaller animals like mice and voles.

Ferruginous Hawk
Image Credit: reitz27, Pixabay

Can a Hawk Carry a Dog?

Looking at all hawk species, the most that a hawk can carry would be around 5 pounds. This greatly limits the breeds of adult dogs that a hawk would be capable of carrying, even if it tried.

Yorkshire terriers, papillons, chihuahuas, and Maltese are some of the smallest breeds, and the largest hawks may be capable of carrying these dogs away. It is highly unlikely that a hawk could carry any larger breeds. An 8-week-old Labrador puppy will weigh around 10 pounds, which is double the weight that most hawks are capable of lifting.

Can a Hawk Carry a Cat?

Despite being strong for their size and more than capable of carrying prey like rodents, hawks are highly unlikely to be able to carry a cat. An average adult domestic cat weighs around 10 pounds, far exceeding the carrying capacity of any hawk.

However, kittens weigh approximately 1 pound for every month of their age, so a 4-month-old kitten might only weigh 4 pounds and a very strong hawk might be able to carry one away.


Hawks are strong and powerful birds of prey that can carry roughly their own body weight in their sharp talons. This means that a typical hawk will be able to carry around 3 pounds, and there are some species that can carry a little more than this, potentially up to around 5 pounds.

There is generally no danger of a hawk being able to carry a dog or cat away, except for very small species or small puppies and kittens. Eagles, however, are capable of carrying much heavier weights, thanks in part to weighing more than hawks.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock, Christopher Unsworth

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.