Watch a Hawk Turn From Predator to Prey in an Instant After Hunting a Snake

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Written by Katie Melynn Wood

Updated: November 9, 2023

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red-tail-hawk-with-garter-snake-in-its-beak
© iStock.com/Holcy

If you think making dinner for your family is tough, just check out what happened to this hawk. Just when he thought he had something tasty to eat, the snake he had just caught, the snake turns the tables and gets the hawk.

The video begins with the hawk having caught the snake. A few onlookers are nearby, one with thick gloves who clearly knows how to handle these wild animals. They marvel at the hawk’s prowess but don’t seem surprised. After all, hawks routinely go after snakes and are very good at catching them.

Warning: This video contains strong language that may be unsuitable for younger audiences.

What they don’t expect is that the hawk will suddenly freeze with the snake wrapped around its body. One man winds the snake away from the hawk but it won’t let go.

“No, it’s not a rattler,” says the man closest to the camera. Before handling any type of animal, it’s important to know what species you are dealing with.

A rattlesnake could have been very dangerous for the hawk or the people to handle due to their venomous bite.

“It’s got the bird, yeah,” says the man as they watch.

“Well, the bird went to get it,” says another. They are familiar with the circle of life and none of them seem broken up about the hawk’s fate. It is a surprising turn of events, however, which resulted in some disbelief.

Which Is The Prey?

What Do Hawks Eat
Small chicks and eggs are more likely to be eaten by snakes than adult birds.

As they continue to try to intervene, the people realize that the snake is wrapped around the hawk’s leg. The hawk lays on the ground, wings spread out, helpless. It might be that the hawk is just as surprised as the people nearby at how this entire event has turned out.

The man handling the snake eventually gets it to unwind from the hawk’s leg. As soon as it is clear, the hawk takes off. The man claps for him but the snake is not very happy that its efforts were thwarted. The snake rears its head up as the people back away.

“You better crawl off,” says the man to the snake, telling his friends to make sure that they get a video of the snake’s behavior. The snake decides that it has been insulted enough and goes back onto the ground to slither away.

A hawk typically eats rodents, gerbils, squirrels, voles, and chipmunks.

©BGSmith/Shutterstock.com

Is It Normal Behavior For Snakes To Attack Birds?

The simple answer here is yes but the behavior is not very common. While many snakes will attack birds if given the chance, it’s rare for snakes to attempt to hunt and eat an adult bird. Instead, snakes will only attack and kill adult birds if there is an opportunity to do so.

Birds are more likely to attack, kill, and eat a snake rather than a snake doing the same to a bird. It’s more likely a snake will attack an adult bird in self-defense. Eggs or small baby birds are more commonly consumed by snakes.

Hawk vs Falcon

falcon vs hawk
falcon vs hawk

Is the bird in the video definitely a hawk? Yes, it is — but it can be easy to mistake a hawk for a falcon and vice versa. While both are birds of prey, they are separate species. They are similar in their head shape and coloring but vary in several other ways.

The most obvious difference between the two is their size. Hawks are generally larger, on average measuring between 18 and 30 inches long, compared to falcons, which can be 8 to 26 inches long. Another way they differ is in their wings. Hawks have short, wide, and rounded wings, while falcons’ are long, slender, and pointed. More on hawks compared to falcons can be found here.

Where Do Hawks Live?

Cooper's Hawk flying at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
Cooper’s Hawk flying at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

Hawks are found on every continent except Antarctica. Different species of hawks live in North, Central, and South America, as well as Eurasia, Africa, and Australia.

They can adapt to almost any habitat and prefer to be in open deserts and fields, where it’s easier to locate prey. Some hawks settle in urban environments, in city parks and gardens.

How Long Do Hawks Live For?

Hawk Shows Off Absurd Precision Flying Between Two Girls Cover image

Hawks live an average of 12 years but can live longer in captivity.

©Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

Hawks can live on average up to 12 years, but if in captivity they often live longer, being in a protected environment with their shelter and nutrition needs met. Birds in the wild face more threats, with young hawks especially at risk from other predators or starvation, due to needing to develop hunting skills as soon as they leave the nest close to 50 days old.

Hawks in urban areas also have to avoid being hit by cars, becoming entangled with or electrocuted by power lines, and colliding with man-made structures. How the hawk in this video manages to live another day is incredible, despite being the snake’s targeted prey!

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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