Thoughts on birds of prey verses your family pets.

We have two pets right now, a ten pound male cat fully clawed - a great mouser and occasional bird catcher.
The other is a five month old American Eskimo puppy, about 13 pounds right now - a great finger chewer and hot-wheel mangler.
We also have the friendly neighborhood hawk bird that lives up in the sky and preys on other flying birds. This hawk has killed land dwelling birds too. Such as the chicken it be-headed a couple of years ago when we kept such creatures in the yard. You know when a hawk is involved because there are feathers every damn where in the yard and the chicken’s head is missing, plus the neighbors saw the hawk leaving the scene of the crime. It also did this to a morning dove in the neighbors yard right under their play set swing, which is now an area of extreme distress for their child. No one saw the hawk get the morning dove but you can guess who found the remains. If you guessed their dog you were correct, and if you guessed that their daughter saw the dog with the decapitated bird in it’s mouth you were doubly correct.

I don’t know how this works, but the hawk seems to like other birds mostly. I haven’t seen any rabbit, mouse, opposum (or any other marsupial for that matter), racoon, weasel, or bear carcasses on the grass so I’m assuming the hawk likes to rip the heads off of just other birds for some reason.

So, we have a flying head ripping off predator living in the sky above our house.

Our beer swilling neighbors (whom I love dearly because they are never out of beer, ever - there could be 75 people at their back yard BBQ pounding beer after beer and they’d still somehow manage to have a case of beer in the fridge the next morning) seem to think this bird could take our dog. They claim they’ve seen (sober) the bird up close and abserved this flying death machine to be about 18 inches tall with about a 5 foot wing span.

Here’s my well reasoned response to that;
I’m guessing since the cat is outside most of the time and catches his own birds that he is competing with the hawk. If the hawk was upset by this you’d think he’d do something about it if he could, so I’m assuming he can’t. Therefore I give the edge to the cat. I think the hawk is afraid of Moo-Cow (the kids named it).

I also know that the dog can take the cat, at least in play fighting. I give the cat the edge in a death match because of the claw factor, but the dog has a very thick coat of fur and claws don’t work effectively unless they strike meat so, maybe the dog would win. It does have a more effective mouth than the cat and sharper teeth. Plus the dog weighs a few pounds more and is still growing so maybe the dog wins a short fight. They get along pretty well so we’ll probably never have the fortune of finding out.

So, in the end, I’m pretty sure Penny (the dog) is safe from the hawk. I believe the hawk would choose to go after something more ‘easily obtainable’ than a 13 pound fuzzball with teeth.
Although we give our pets whimpy names and the hawk’s name is probably something like Mason Winchester III, or Duke of Decapitation I believe strongly that our pets are too dumb to know that in real-life, if they were humans, this would be a death sentence for them.

What say ye?

‘Fluffy just disappeared into the sky!’

‘Was she religious? Could have been a raptor rapture.’

My family doesn’t keep cats anymore, after our last cat disappeared many years ago. At the time, NM was going through a pretty intense drought and we still lived on the edge of nothing (nothing’s pretty well developed these days). We thought a coyote had taken her.

When we took the dog to the vet that year, though, he said that he doubted it was a coyote. She’d been an indoor/outdoor cat all of her life, and had probably figured out how to deal with them. He said he suspected it was an owl, as they can carry off up to 12lbs when they are desperate.

My parents now don’t let the 11lb poodle out by himself, especially at night. If he goes out, the 92lb rottie goes with him. I would suspect that your pup is on the edge, depending on the size of the bird and the bird’s desperation. It sounds like the bird isn’t having a hard time, so probably won’t be looking at your puppy or your cat. However, if I were worried about one of them, I’d worry about the cat, given what our vet said.

Both your animals sound like they’re right on the edge of being too big for a hawk to deal with. Actually, they’re both probably too big for a hawk, though an eagle or an owl might take the shot. With that puppy, though, I’m guessing you’ll wait two weeks and he’ll be far too big for any bird to carry off, and if the cat hasn’t been taken yet, he won’t be. Outdoor cats are a lot closer to nature than dogs are, and I can’t imagine the hawk wants to be clawed up in return for a meal.

Could or would?

I agree with your assessment that Mason Winchester III wouldn’t much care to take on your puppy. But I think there’s a slim chance that he could. My cat is larger than 13 lbs, and I think a large determined hawk could have a chance against him. Alas, my cat is a lover, not a fighter. So if the hawk was prepared, definitely the hawk.

Your pet could be* hurt *by a hawk, if not actually carried off by it. Hawks kill their prey by a sudden swift dive, delivering a sharp impact with their feet and talons. This stuns or incapacitates small mammals and then the talons do the rest, usually while the bird is flying to its eating location.

It’s unlikely, though, that a hawk would target your pet. Hawks have extremely sharp vision and are unlikly to mistake a 13 pound puppy for a bunny or a pheasant. Stranger things have happened, though, and it could be possible for a hawk to swoop down and strike the puppy, but it’s unlikely it would try to carry it off, especially if the blow didn’t knock out the puppy. The puppy would likely suffer bruises and a possible laceration or two, but I doubt if any wounds would be life-threatening.*

That’s probably why the chickens were found headless: the hawk swooped on it and once it had killed the chicken, realized it was too bulky or heavy to carry off and just left it there. It’s possible that the blow ripped the head off the chicken at least partially, and some other animal may have made off with it. Or maybe the hawk took it as a souvenir. Who knows?

  • Always seek a vet’s attention in weird incidents like this, though. You don’t know where those talons have been.

I see hawks flying above our lake or perching on tree branches, but I’ve only seen one attack. There was a mother wood duck with seven ducklings swimming near shore and the hawk swooped out of a tree and went for the ducklings. The mother duck leaped into the air and diverted him from his target. This happened twice in the space of a few minutes. All of those ducklings eventually grew to adulthood, which is an amazing achievement.

I just got this wierd image of a Gary Larson cartoon of the hawk’s nest, with a series of Larsonesque chicken heads mounted on the wall, and the Duke of Decpaitation in a smoking jacket, puffing on a pipe, showing them off to another hawk buddy…

Birds of prey, like any predator, will go after the easiest prey available. If other birds, both flying and land-locked, are easier to hunt than your cat, then kitty is safe. If other game becomes scarce and your cat is caught in the open, however, the hawk will eat the cat.

There won’t be a fight – there never is with a flying predator. The hawk will probably dive from a fairly high hunting altitude – a couple hundred feet is not unheard of – and the only thing your cat will feel is the hawk’s knuckles against the back of its head. One thump and Fluffy is history.

The same goes for the dog. We live in a rural area of eastern Colorado, and we have golden eagles, barn owls and hawks all over the place. People regularly lose dogs up to the size of a large rabbit (the birds’ favored prey.) Cats have been lost to aerial predators, but are usually warned by the hawk’s shadow flashing across the ground. (I don’t know whether it’s true, but I’ve been told birds of prey use their shadows to gague altitude and prey size – seems like a lot of computing to go on in the brain of a bird driven only by instinct, but maybe.)

Bottom line, if you pets don’t look appetizing, the hawk will leave 'em alone; it doesn’t understand competition for prey, so it won’t take out the cat out of anger.

Coincidentally, I ran across this the other day:

We have a few hawks working the neighborhood, and I’ve seen them calmly taking apart doves and blue jays atop a power pole. There’s also a big magnificent owl living across the street. Though he’s bigger than the hawks, he works the mice and sparrows.

I don’t think a predator would risk injury to have another predator for lunch. There’s plenty of safer prey around. My cat is a hobby hunter. These birds kill prey for a living.

I very rarely watch the news but do remeber watching this story recently.

Kid was walking his dog and a hawk decided to try and take the dog away. The kid explained to the hawk that wasn’t ok by kicking it in the head.

I imagine a cat wouldn’t have to worry much about a bird attacking them. Cats tend to have quick reflexes and can react pretty quickly. Even if a hawk decided to go after a cat I think the cat could get a claw swipe in fast enough that the bird would consider a less agressive meal.

On the puppy based on the story above I would have some concern till it got a little bit bigger.

If it doesn’t outgrow the hawks meal size I’d let the hawk have it and get a ‘real’ dog. (I’m biased against little dogs)

The competition thing was in jest. Much of the OP, in fact, was in jest.
The OP could be boiled down to this single truthful component;
The neighbor claimed that the hawk could kill our dog. I said, “No way!”
I then tried to make funny while simultaneously creating an somewhat factual OP. :smiley:

Several years ago, at dusk, an owl swooped through my parents’ yard and picked up their bony, elderly cat. It didn’t take him very far, though. The owl must have lost its grip or figured out how gristly that particular cat was going to be. It dropped him from a height of about thirty feet, but he bounced through the branches of a pine tree and landed pretty much unharmed. He weighed somewhere in the 6-8 lbs. range.

Barn Owls only weigh about a pound and eat mice… ditto for most hawks. Only Great Horned Owls and eagles are strong enough to attack pets.