Difference between Eagle and Hawk

Key difference: Eagles are large birds of prey. Hawks are birds of prey that are usually smaller in size and weight less.

Both eagles and hawks are large birds of prey. They both belong to the Accipitridae family of birds. They are usually hard to differentiate at distances; however there are some significant differences between the two.

Eagles are known for their larger size, powerful build, and a heavier head and bill. Eagles are considered to be larger than any other birds of prey, except vultures. Hawks, on the other hand, are widely distributed and vary greatly in size. They are known for their sharp beaks, strong claws, long tails, powerful and curved beaks, and their ability to soar for great lengths of time.

Eagles grab their prey without landing and take flight with it so the prey can be carried to a perch and torn apart. Hawks tend to hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch in trees. Hawks are considered to be among the most intelligent birds.

Eagles tend to be larger in size than hawks and weight more. Some species of eagles weigh up to 18 lbs, whereas large-to-medium-sized hawks can weigh up to 8 lbs. These large-to-medium-sized hawks are usually about the size of some of the smallest eagle species.

Eagles are more likely to scavenge than hawks and have the ability to prey on larger animals than hawks, mainly due to their size. Also, eagles are classified into two different types of categories: land eagles and sea eagles. The latter tend to prefer coastal habitats and prey on fish and other marine life. Hawks usually reside in wooded areas.

Eagles have been long considered as symbol of power, courage, and majesty. They have been featured as the emblem of the Roman Empire, in the Great Seal of the United States and as a symbol by czarist Russia. It also appears on flags or the coat of arms of many countries, including Albania, Austria, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Poland, and Spain.

A detailed comparison between Eagles and Hawks:















(or Accipitriformes, q.v.)


(or Accipitriformes, q.v.)





Two main groups of eagles: land eagles and sea eagles, or ernes.

Over 250 species


Hooked beaks, curved talons, exceptionally keen eyesight, powerful wings, strong bodies, and feathered legs.

Strong legs, sharp and curved talons, sharp, powerful and curved beaks, powerful wings, keen eyesight, swift fliers, can soar for long periods

Gender differentiation

The female are usually larger than the male.

Female are usually larger and stronger than the male.


Vary in color: golden, blackish-gray, brown, etc. The bald eagle has a white feathered head and a white tail. Bills are usually light or yellow in color.

Vary in color; most are gray or reddish brown on top and whitish underneath. Usually the bills are black, the feet yellow, and the talons black.


The land eagles have legs feathered down to the toes. The sea eagles have legs feathered halfway down to the toes.

Usually have darker spots or streaks on the neck, breast, and legs and darker bars on the tail and wings. Their legs are feathered, in some species right down to the toes.


Mostly hunt by day. Most eagles grab prey without landing and take flight with it so the prey can be carried to a perch and torn apart.

Mostly hunt by day; bat hawk of Asia and Africa, hunts at night. Hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch.


Varies on species; includes fish, snakes, medium-sized vertebrate, ground mammals and other birds.

Smaller birds and land animals, such as rats, mice, gophers, rabbits, and grasshoppers.


Build nests, called eyries, in tall trees or on high cliffs.

Bulky nests of sticks on rocky cliffs or hills, or in trees. A few species nest on the ground.


Many species lay two whitish eggs.

Whitish or light blue usually spotted with brown, and number between two to seven.


The older, larger chick frequently kills its younger sibling once it has hatched.

Covered with white down, looked after by both parents, able to fly after 4-6 weeks.

Image Courtesy: gofish.smugmug.com, theorthodoxprisonministry.org

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Great information! Saw a hawk a few days ago. Big enough for me to worry about my 12 lb dog. Yikes .. magnificent creature....

Good, I can use these facts for my Project. Thank you.

learnt a new thing today.

thanks, my friend now (finally!!!) knows the difference between the two species of bird, and that they're not 'the same thing'.

Very, very nice explanation.

I came to this site to find out whether it was an eagle or a large hawk that came face to face with me at my 21st floor apartment overlooking the Don Valley NorthYork. It was definitely large and the coloration was gold and black/brown patches on his back. Lets just say that I was glad to have a glass door between me and this big boy. He blinked and floated away.

I would take it as a sign.

My favorite bird of prey is a golden eagle.

Awesome, I learned a-lot from this.

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