Hawks eat rattlesnakes, garter snakes, black rat snakes and many other snake species. Snakes are a staple in the diet of most birds of prey. Hungry hawks prey upon all snakes native to their ecosystem.
Hawks also consume other reptiles. For example, red-tailed hawks living in the Caribbean hunt small lizards. Other common prey include rodents, fish, squirrels, frogs, small birds and insects.
Hawks prefer small, defenseless prey, but starving specimens will attack small dogs, cats and jackrabbits. They also plunder koi ponds, scavenge fresh roadkill and consume carcasses left behind by other predators.
Hawks are very strong for their size and easily lift up to three times their own weight. Mature hawks perch on high ledges and swoop down on unsuspecting prey, grasping it in their talons and carrying it back up to the perch. This protects them from predators and motor vehicles, and keeps the slaughtered prey safe from opportunistic interlopers. Young hawks who have not yet learned the swooping technique hunt by hopping and running along the ground, looking for insects and juvenile rodents. Hawks kill large prey with bites to the neck, shoulders and ribcage; they consume smaller prey in a single bite. Some skin rodents before they eat them.