Eagles and hawks are birds of prey. They are both species of the accipitridae family. In America, the buteo family species are also classified as hawks. Though hawks and eagles share many common characteristics, there are some distinguishing features in their physical appearance and habits.
Location: There are land eagles and sea eagles. Sea eagles live near the coast. Land eagles favour hilly areas. Hawks live in areas that are thickly forested. Hawks may be classified as buteonine or accipitrine.
Size: The size varies among the different types, but the largest types of eagles are bigger than the largest hawks. Most types of eagles weigh between 3 and 5 kilos. The largest could weigh 9 kilos. The head of an eagle is proportionately larger than a hawk’s; its hooked beak is also more powerful.
Wings and feathers: Eagles have much broader and stronger wings than hawks. The wingspan of eagles may be from 1 to 2 ½ metres long. Land eagles have feathers on their legs. Some types of hawks also have this characteristic. Different types of hawks have dark spots or bars on their necks and wings.
Colouring: Eagles may be black, grey, or brown with white or light markings. Their bills are light coloured. Hawks are generally red-brown or grey with lighter breasts. Their bills are brown or black.
Nesting: Eagles build nests on cliffs. Their nests are usually built from sticks and are called eyries or aeries. They use the same eyries year after year. Hawks nest in tree tops or hilly areas. They may use sticks or they may use nests which other birds have used. Eagles lay one or two eggs. Hawks may lay between two and seven eggs. Eagle eggs take about 5 to 6 weeks to hatch. Hawk eggs hatch between four and five weeks. Young hawks grow fast and are able to fend for themselves by the time they are one or two months old. Eaglets, on the other hand, leave their nests only when they are three or four months old. Even then, they stay close to the eyrie for a few months until they can catch their own prey. Among eagles, the stronger hatchling frequently kills the weaker one.
Hunting: Most types of hawks hunt from a hidden perch, whereas most eagles swoop upon their prey from the air. Eagles can prey on larger creatures because of their size; many types are scavengers.
Prey: Eagles eat fish, snakes and small mammals. Hawks eat small rodents. Both eagles and hawks prey on smaller birds.
Scientists are finding more and more similarities between various types of hawks and eagles. Both eagles and hawks have excellent vision. The females are larger than the males.
Hawks are considered to be the most intelligent of all birds.
Eagles have been used in many cultures as a symbol of strength and power.