Hawks are birds of prey with large bodies, beaks, and talons. They patrol the skies during the day, searching for prey, such as rodents and small reptiles. These apex predators can see small animals from over a hundred feet in the air.
Depending on which species, hawks can live around 12 to 15 years in the wild and even longer in captivity, depending on the species and their condition. Hawks have adapted well to life in many habitat types, including rural, urban, and agricultural landscapes.
With the changing climate, many hawk species will likely expand their ranges as more areas open up to year-round use by these raptors. As available land increases in more northern locations, the hawk populations will also increase, except in lands lost to drought.
How Long Do Captive Hawks Live?
In the United States, hawks are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, like all other native bird species. This treaty does not allow people to capture and keep native hawks as pets unless they are certified handlers with a special permit.
However, falconry is an organized sport that people have participated in for hundreds of years. The North American Falconers Association is an organization that encourages people to participate in the sport of falconry and provides resources to individuals who want to participate.
Becoming a falconer requires a permit and an apprenticeship to get started. Because the regulations governing this sport are strict, getting started requires significant investments of time and money.
Generally, captive hawks live longer than wild hawks, but poor housing conditions and negligent handling can injure a captive hawk in falconry. Captive hawks kept and cared for in good conditions can live for over 20 years, depending on the species.
How Long Do Wild Hawks Live?
Wild hawks have few natural predators, so they generally live long lives. On average, wild hawks live for around 15 years. Larger-bodied hawks typically live longer than smaller hawk species because they are less susceptible to predation from other raptors.
Most hawks die within the first year after leaving the nest as they learn how to survive in their environment. Once hawks survive their first year, their chance of dying decreases as they become skilled at finding food and living around humans.
What Kills Hawks?
During the first year of life, hawks have a high mortality rate as they are susceptible to predation from animals and raptors that raid nests and prey on young hawks. After hawks fledge, they must learn quickly to survive to produce their own offspring.
Many yearling hawks die from starvation because they cannot find territories with consistent food sources. Hawks that live in urban and suburban areas are frequently hit by cars when the birds are diving to the ground to catch prey on the side of the road.
When hawks live in rural and agricultural areas, they can be pests, and farmers may shoot birds that try to raid their chicken runs for prey. Occasionally, hawks are electrocuted when trying to land on power lines or entangled when landing on barbed wire fences.
What is the Oldest Hawk?
Hawks can live for many years if they have access to sufficient food resources and a safe place to roost during severe storms. It is common for some hawk species to live more than two decades under the right conditions.
The oldest captive hawk on record was a Harris’s Hawk that lived for over 34 years at the Freedom Center for Wildlife in New Jersey. The oldest captive Red-Tailed Hawk lived for over 32 years at the HawkWatch International rescue in Utah.
The oldest wild Red-Tailed Hawk lived over 30 years in Michigan. The maximum longevity of other wild hawk species tends to be less than that of the Red-Tailed Hawk, one of the largest North American raptors.