You’re obviously aware that hawks have exceptional eyesight because this allows them to spot their prey even when it’s a very long distance away. But, you might be wondering whether hawks also have good hearing.
Hawks do actually hear very well. And, yes, they do have ears even though you can’t see them because they’re hidden behind their feathers.
While human hearing ranges from 20 cycles or hertz per second to 20,000 cycles per second, birds, in general, can only hear between 1000 to 5000 cycles per second.
However, diurnal raptors such as hawks do have hearing that is quite similar to humans. However, nocturnal raptors such as owls have a far more advanced sense of hearing and can use their ears to pinpoint the precise position of their intended prey in complete darkness.
What Does The Ear Of A Hawk Consist Of?
Like many other species of birds, the ears on a hawk are situated on either side of its head and hidden under the feathers. The outer ears have a short external passage called a meatus. They also have a muscle in the skin surrounding this passage that is able to either partially or completely close the opening of the ear passage.
If you brush the feathers of a hawk toward its beak, you’ll see a small hole. This is the ear passage that is called the external auditory meatus. You’ll also find that the ear placement on either side of the head is asymmetrical. This means that the ear is slightly higher on one side of the head compared to the ear on the other side of the head.
The reason that the ears are situated asymmetrically on either side of the head is that this allows birds such as hawks to pinpoint exactly the location of the sound.
The ear openings on hawks are covered by soft feathers called auriculars. These are designed to protect the ears and also help to cut down wind noise.
Surrounding the ear canal is a tympanic membrane that bulges outward. From within this membrane, an ossicular chain transmits vibrations to the inner ear or cochlea.
How Do Hawks Use Their Hearing?
We all know that hawks use their eyesight for hunting. So, what do they use their hearing for? In general, hawks use their sense of hearing to alert them of nearby predators or other types of dangers.
Interestingly, hawks will also use their hearing when communicating. For instance, during mating time, a male hawk will often screech to let other male hawks know where his territory is. When the other male hawks hear this screeching, they’ll generally stay away so that they don’t face a confrontation.
Findings From A Study Made About The Hearing Ability Of Marsh Hawks
In 1982, the Quarterly Journal of Ornithology published a report written by William R. Rice who worked at the Department of Zoology at the Oregon State University. This report was the result of a study to understand the hearing ability of Marsh hawks when compared to nocturnal raptors such as Barn owls.
In the study, it was discovered that Marsh hawks could detect the location of prey with their hearing up to 3 to 4 miles away. This was compared to the Barn owl which could detect the sound of prey up to 7 miles away.
The study also found that the Marsh hawk could detect the location of a vole simply through the squeaks emitted by the animal rather than by using its keen eyesight.
The anatomy of the Marsh hawk shows that, like many species of owls, it has a facial ruff that acts as a sound shell. This means that high-frequency sound in front of the bird is reflected off the facial ruff and directed toward the ear canal.
Additionally, the Marsh hawk is also commonly seen foraging for prey at a much lower height than other birds of prey.
During laboratory experiments, it was discovered that the directional hearing of the Marsh hawk was far better than a selection of other diurnal raptors.
From this, we can conclude that certain species of hawks do, indeed, have very good hearing. In fact, it would appear that the Marsh hawk has hearing that is almost as acute as that of certain species of owls.
Could You Use Loud Noises To Keep Hawks Away From Your Yard?
Although hawks are beautiful and majestic birds of prey, there are times when you may not want them visiting your garden. Especially if you have bird feeders out and want to attract small songbirds.
So, knowing that hawks do have good hearing, could you use loud noises to keep these birds away?
The most effective way to do this is to try an ultrasonic bird repeller. You want the sound emitted to be loud, erratic and irritating to birds but not irritating to humans or pets. In fact, this is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to deter hawks and other birds of prey from your yard or your chicken coop.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do loud noises scare hawks?
Yes, because hawks are smaller sized birds of prey, loud noises can scare them.
Do hawks hunt by sound?
No. To hunt, hawks use their very keen eyesight to search for prey. Their screeching during flight is normally just territorial behavior.
What do hawk sounds mean?
Generally, a hawk will screech to protect his territory, especially during mating season.
Diurnal raptors such as hawks do have good hearing. But, most species don’t use their hearing for hunting because their keen eyesight is so much more effective.
However, certain species of hawks, like the Marsh hawk, will sometimes prefer to use their keen hearing to detect prey on the ground below by listening for familiar sounds.
So, the sometimes misunderstood saying “ears like a hawk” may not be all that far from the truth.