People who are not aware of the normal behavior of birds of prey may be afraid if they see a hawk circling above. But, do hawks actually attack humans?
In general, most hawks would much prefer to keep well away from humans and would avoid confrontation wherever possible. However, when they’re nesting, they become very protective of their young. Therefore, at times like this, they may well dive bomb a human who is walking near their nest. This is actually a defensive behavior and aimed at scaring the human away rather than a full-on attack.
But, don’t worry too much as most hawk attacks only result in minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes.
Do Hawks Generally Come Near Humans?
Generally, hawks would much prefer to stay away from humans. You see, a hawk is quite intelligent and understands the size and weight difference between itself and even the smallest human.
A hawk also sees no advantage to attacking or even being near humans unless it is protecting its young. So, in forests and open areas where these birds may be nesting, they would prefer to keep well away from humans.
However, if the person does come too close to its nest, it may see the human as a potential threat to its offspring and may attack in order to drive the intruder away.
The problem arises when humans provide food sources to these birds and they decide to nest in tall trees in backyards. In this instance, the situation becomes more dangerous because these birds are extreme protectors when it comes to their young.
What Makes A Backyard Attractive To A Hawk?
A hawk will frequent your backyard if there’s an easily available food source. This could include:
- Small songbirds that come to visit your backyard feeder.
- Rodents, moles and garden voles that come to forage under the feeders for dropped seeds.
- Insect, lizards and frogs that may live in or near a pond in your garden.
- If you keep backyard chickens or have ducks on a pond.
All of these provide an easy food source for a hawk and you might find that the bird will not only visit your yard, but it might also bring its mate and then build a nest high up in one of your trees.
When this happens, you’ll have to be extremely careful around nesting season because you could be attacked by one of the hawks as they protect their young.
What Makes Hawks So Aggressive During Nesting Times?
During breeding season, these birds generally experience a surge in testosterone levels. This makes the birds quite aggressive and almost appears as though they lose their fear of humans.
In fact, even crows, who hawks tend to stay away from, will not go anywhere near a hawk during nesting time.
For this reason, if you wander anywhere near a hawk’s nest, the bird will most likely attack you. Even if, in reality, you pose no threat to the eggs or baby birds. Even though you mean no harm, the bird does not realize this and can only see you as a possible threat. A hawk will even attack a small child because that child is larger than the bird itself.
How Does A Hawk Attack A Human?
Because hawks like to use the element of surprise, they will always attack from behind. At first, the hawk may just fly past you at close range in order to scare you. This is usually enough for most people to move well away from where they believed the hawk to come from.
However, if you happen to hold your ground, the hawk may try again and dive at you with its talons outstretched. This could result in some type of injury to any exposed skin you may have.
Bear in mind too, that hawks do carry certain diseases that can infect humans and also your pets.
What Pests And Diseases Can Be Spread By Hawks?
Here’s a list of diseases and pests that can be spread by hawks whether through direct contact from an attack or through contact with the bird’s droppings.
- Avian tuberculosis. Mainly transmitted through droppings but can be fatal.
- West nile virus. Actually spread by mosquitos from hawks to humans.
- A fungal infection that is spread through direct contact.
- Can produce respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, septicemia and pneumonia and is a result of scratches becoming infected.
- coli. A bacterial infection spread by direct contact.
- Avian influenza. This is spread through droppings but can be fatal.
- Spread by direct contact and causes the scratches to become infected and turn blue-red.
How To Avoid Hawk Attacks
The simple answer here is to make sure that you stay away from their nesting sites. This means that if you’re out walking your dog in a nearby forest or through some open grassland, just be aware when nesting season is and stay alert.
If you notice a hawk nearby, check to see whether you can see a nest and definitely stay away from that area. Also, keep your dog on a leash. And, if you do happen to catch a glimpse of a hawk diving, face it head on as its unlikely to attack. Opening an umbrella has also been quite effective in warding off hawk attacks.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why would a hawk attack a human?
The only reason a hawk would attack a human is to defend its nest and its young.
How dangerous are hawks?
In most instances, hawks are not dangerous to humans and prefer to avoid them altogether. The only time that a hawk may become a threat is if it is nesting nearby.
Why is a hawk dive bombing me?
This is actually a defensive behaviour to keep you away from its nest.
In most cases, the only time that a hawk will attack a human is during nesting season. Therefore, if you keep away from its nest, you won’t face an attack from a hawk.