How Much Weight Can a Hawk Pick Up?
More than You Think!

Wondering whether hawks can pick up heavy animals or other objects? Well, read ahead to find out more.

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David A. Swanson

October 31, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Hawks, just like other birds of prey, have a vivacious look on their face. They rely solely on small creatures’ flesh to survive. Their eyes are big, extending higher towards their crown-making them look super sly and fierce.

As we all know, Hawks are creatures that can attack any bird or animal for food. Their bulky bodies and strong talons assist them in digging into their prey’s bodies, allowing them to carry their weight around effortlessly.

Hawks are exceptional predators. They have very sharp eyesight; they detect their prey from the sky—from where they pounce on them and carry them away.

However, have you ever thought about how much weight a hawk can pick up?

A Hawk can pick up around 4 to 5 lbs of weight and fly. But if a hawk picks up more than that, they won’t carry be able to carry it around. A large hawk is capable of only taking the weight that falls under 12 pounds.


Hawks and Their Classification


Hawks are diurnal birds having medium-sized bodies. They are pretty widespread across the world, with different species sighted across different countries and regions. Check out the chart below to better understand the classification of their species.


Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Accipitriformes
Family Accipitridae

The subfamily of Hawks belongs to the family Accipitridae. This group includes goshawks, sparrow hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and many other hawks.

The hawks belonging to this subgroup mainly live in the woodlands and open–high canopied forests. These hawks have long tails and sharp visual acuity.


In America, the group of hawks is called Buteo, but in other parts of the world, it is called Buzzards. Hawks that belong to the group buteo have a sturdy build and broad feathers. In addition, these hawks have long wings and short tails. These hawks prefer flying in an open area to a closed space.

There are two terms used for hawks that are accipitrine and buteonine. These two terms are used to distinguish between the regions in which hawks live. All these groups of hawks belong to the family Accipitridae. Other hawks’ names are Osprey, a fish hawk, and a Peregrine Falcon also called a duck hawk.


To determine how much weight a hawk can carry, you must consider the hawk species since they come in different shapes and sizes. Read the following chart to learn more about hawks and their size.

Hawk Species Size
Harris Hawk 18 – 30 inches
Northern Harrier 17 – 22 inches
Red-shouldered Hawk 19 – 23 inches
Rough-legged Hawk 50 – 54 inches
Swainson’s Hawk 17 – 22 inches
Red-tailed Hawk 18 – 22 inches
Sharp-shinned Hawk 9 – 12 inches
Ferruginous Hawk 20 – 28 inches

Physical Characteristics of Hawk


Hawks are known as solid and powerful birds. The claws of hawks are sharp, made for capturing their prey. Similarly, their beaks are sharp to tear the skin and flesh of the prey.

Hawks are swift fliers and can fly at a speed of 150mph when they dive.

Talking about the weight of the hawks, the female hawks weigh twice as much as males. The hawks’ wings are 14 to 19 inches long, which gives a chunky appearance to their flight.

Hawk’s Eyesight

The eyesight of the hawks is eight times better than humans, which also enables them to see more colors. Hawks can see in the visible region as well as the ultraviolet region.

In addition, Hawks have multiple retinas in their eyes, which helps them detect polarized light and magnetic fields.


Hawk’s Intelligence

The intelligence of the Hawk was measured by a Canadian Ornithologist, Louis Lefebvre. He measured the IQ of a hawk by introducing innovative feeding habits to the bird. However, as per the study, Hawks were found as the most intelligent creatures among many birds.

In addition, Hawks are exceptional predators. As they have powerful eyesight, they detect their prey from the sky. They have a fast flight with which they attack the target and lift them from the ground.

How Much Weight Can a Hawk Lift Off the Ground?


It is difficult for the hawks to carry more weight than their own weight. For example, the Red-tailed hawks and Great Horned Hawks weigh about 4 pounds; hence, they can’t lift more than 4 pounds of weight off the ground.

However, there’s no doubt that it depends on the bird and its potential regarding how much weight it can lift. For instance, the Red-Tailed and Great Horned Hawks cannot lift an average adult dog or cat.

Some large Red-Tailed Hawks, which weigh more, can carry about 5 pounds weight, but the Great Horned Hawks are found to be focused on hunting and carrying small mammals and birds for their food.

Can A Hawk Pick Up A 20 Pounds Cat?


Hawks are not a significant threat to pets. The large Red-tailed Hawks, depending on their weight, can not only pick puppies and kittens, but they can also pick cats and dogs of average size.

However, the wings of the Hawk are not that strong to carry a cat far away with them. They might pick them and hop a little and then drop the cat, but they cannot carry them for long distances.

For example, a Red-tailed hawk cannot carry a 20 pounds cat, but it can hurt, injure, or kill it. However, on the contrary to Hawks, a giant owl can carry a 20 pounds cat with it.

Can A Hawk Carry Your 12-Pound Pet?

No, a hawk cannot carry a 12 pounds pet. Ferruginous Hawk, the giant Hawk of North America, weighs 4 pounds; however, it cannot carry more than 3 pounds weight off the ground.

Hence, carrying a 12-pound pet off the ground is not logically possible. Getting attacked or picked up by a hawk is a threat for pets that are under 12 pounds weight. Therefore, pets smaller in size and which weigh less, are at a threat from the hawks.

Can A Hawk Pick Up a Small Child?

A hawk would not risk attacking a small child if any adult is nearby. However, according to popular belief, you must have read that a hawk carried a small child, but there is no proof of that, and it is only considered a myth.

Even if, by chance, a hawk manages to pick a child, it would not be able to fly away with it, leaving the child behind.

In addition, the stories or beliefs of an eagle and a hawk carrying a small child are nothing but false.

How Large of a Dog Can a Hawk Pick Up?

Hawks can swoop down and grab pets that are under 12 pounds weight. Therefore, it is recommended not to leave pets outside without the supervision of an adult.

A hawk can pick up to 5 pounds (2 Kg) of weight. So, if you have a new born puppy, there is a likelihood that a hawk might be able to lift it if it’s below 2kg. But, in general, hawks are unable to lift an average-sized dog.

Can A Hawk Pick Up a Full-Grown Chicken?


Hawks can kill, pick up, and carry a full-grown chicken. They usually hunt for chickens during the daytime. In addition, since chickens are ground animals, it is easy for a hawk to pick up a full-grown chicken.


Keep Reading!

By now, you must be well aware of how a hawk looks, what physical characteristics they have, and up to how much weight they can lift. In summary, a hawk cannot lift more than its body weight.

Since hawks weigh about 4 to 5 pounds, they can only carry this much weight when flying in the air. We hope this post answered all your questions pertaining to how much weight a hawk can lift. If you want to know more about hawks, read this interesting post to find out if hawks eat hummingbirds – it’s shocking!

Do Hawks Eat Hummingbirds? It's Shocking Why They Don't!

Are you here because you're confused if hawks like to prey on hummingbirds or not? Read ahead to find out.

David A. Swanson Picture

By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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