Hawks attack and eat small mammals such as rabbits, rats, squirrels, voles and mice. Some hawks primarily eat smaller birds. Other hawks may include reptiles such as snakes, turtles and lizards in their diet. Large hawks may also attack cats and small dogs that are usually under 15 pounds.
All hawks are carnivores, but their diet varies depending on the species. For example, sharp-shinned hawks have a diet that is 95 percent small birds. A Cooper’s hawk, which is also an accipiter, eats small and medium sized birds only 50 percent of the time and eats small mammals to supplement its diet.
Some hawks do not eat animals at all and only consume insects. Many hawks, including the red-tailed hawk, eat earthworms, crickets, beetles and grasshoppers, in addition to small mammals, fish and birds. They may further supplement their diet with other small prey, such as frogs, crayfish, spiders and centipedes. Some hawks also consume road kill or eat carrion in addition to catching their prey. Hawks also steal food from other birds of prey.
Some juvenile hawks, such as Northern Harriers, play with corn cobs as a way to perfect their hunting technique and build their motor skills. Although it may appear that the hawks eat corn to observers, they do not actually consume the corn. Cooper’s hawks display similar behavior with pine cones.