Generally, a hawk is any small to medium accipitrid that is not an eagle. Hawks are birds of prey and can be identified by their predatory characteristics. This means that they have sharp talons and hooked beaks, and tend to circle overhead.
Hawks are any member of the subfamily Accipitrid or the Buteo group in the Americas. Some buzzards and vultures are also characterized as hawks. Hawks can be distinguished from eagles primarily by their size. Eagles are typically much bigger. Hawks are known for their eyesight, and are visual hunters. Because of this, buteo hawks tend to live in open areas, such as plains or deserts, and they hunt with quick dives from the air. However, accipitrid hawks are often known as wood-hawks because they live in woodland areas. Accipitrid hawks prefer to launch themselves at prey from concealed perches high up. The red-tailed hawk, common in the Americas, weighs 2-3 pounds and has a wingspan of about 4 feet. Hawks also differ from true falcons in their hunting behavior. A falcon kills its prey with its talons, whereas a hawk uses its talons for capture and kills with its beak or by dropping its prey from the air.