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Why Do Hawks Screech? 5 Reasons for This Behavior

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red shouldered hawk screeching on tree
Image Credit: Nick-Bossenbroek, Shutterstock

Hawk screeches differ from species to species. Some species rarely screech, while others screech for every little reason. Also, every hawk species makes varying screeches depending on gender and age. Why do hawks screech?

There are several reasons why hawks screech. Hawks screech during flight, during mating season, calling their young ones, and many others. Read on to know why hawks screech:

The Language of Hawks

Hawks communicate through screeching. They are generally solitary birds, so when they screech, chances are high there is another hawk around.

The screeches hawks make may differ depending on the message they are putting across. A hawk’s calling sound is different from a screech. Additionally, the exact sound the hawk makes depends on the gender, species, or whether it’s an adult or fledging.

When you identify the sound made, you can easily recognize the species.

1. Screeching at Night

Most people think that hawks are nocturnal creatures because they are active at night. However, they are diurnal and only hunt at night.

Hawks hunt at dusk when their prey comes from their burrows. They utilize the shadows and dim light to stalk the prey.

Being diurnal, they retire when the sun sets and rise again in the morning to hunt at dawn. Since they sleep after sunset, it is unlikely they are the ones making noise at night. However, if you are sure that it is a hawk screeching, it could be warning an intruder.


2. Screeching at Their Young Ones

During mating season, a male and female hawk sticks together and mate for life. They make their nest and reuse it every year unless it becomes uninhabitable.

The mates guard their nests and screech at any intruder animal or human who comes too close. Therefore, the hawks don’t screech at their young ones but at nearby creatures as a warning.

If you may listen to the hawks screeching, every bird produces a different sound depending on size. For that reason, it will not be a surprise to notice the young ones make a quieter sound.

When hawks screech, they make a clear pattern. By far, they mostly screech when proclaiming their territory.

The only non-hostile screech they make is when mating and impressing each other.

3. Screeching in Flight

Hawks screeching in flight is an entirely regular occurrence, especially during mating. As mentioned earlier, hawks are lone creatures except during mating season. During the mating season, you may notice hawks in groups as males chase after females.

The male hawk displays dominance by loudly screeching to claim his territory as part of the mating ritual. So, when you notice a hawk screeching in flight, most likely he is asserting his dominance and warning other males to keep off his territory.

The other reason why hawks may screech in flight is when they impress each other during mating. During courtship, both the male and female hawks screech at each other.

Additionally, hawks can screech even when not mating but to only pass the warning message to intruders.

close up of a hawk screeching
Image Credit: Lilly3012, Pixabay

4. Screeching When Hunting

Does it make sense to screech when hunting? Absolutely not! This is just a misconception as hawks are fast hunters, and screeching will only complicate the hunt. The only time they may screech when hunting is still during the mating season.

The other exception is in the Harris’ hawks that live and hunt in groups. This species hunts under challenging terrains, and one member of the group may screech to distract the prey. By doing that, it allows the other hawks to close in on the prey unnoticed.

5. Screeching in Alarm

Sometimes, hawks screech in pain or alarm. Hawks make distinctive screeches when injured by another animal. Hawks get hunted by owls, ravens, porcupines, bigger hawks, raccoons, crows, and snakes.

Image Credit: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

Why Do Baby Hawks Screech?

Hawks leave their young ones in summer. During this time, the eyases cry for weeks waiting for the parents to bring food. However, the parents are only doing what is natural and not abandoning them. The young ones leave the nest when ready to hunt from six weeks old.

The young ones should learn to hunt and be self-reliant. In the meantime, the parents are not happy. The young ones learn to hunt and kill the prey with their talons, unlike other creatures such as falcons.


Final Thoughts

Male hawks are smaller than females and tend to have a high-pitched screech. The female is also more hostile than the male, especially when protecting the young ones. The male’s small size is an advantage over speed when hunting to provide for the brooding female and the young ones.

Hawks may quickly adapt to their surroundings, but they love open places such as fields or deserts. These places are easy to hunt prey too. They also love the tropical mountainous plains and moist areas.

Featured Image Credit: Nick Bossenbroek, Shutterstock

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.