Most people know that hawks are predatory birds of prey, but many do not know why they screech.
The answer is surprisingly simple: when a hawk screams, it is trying to communicate with other members of its species.
As hawks cannot rely on body language and facial expressions like humans, hawks screech to assist with intra-species communication.
Why Hawks Screech
Hawks’ calls can be broken down into two distinct types: loud, high-pitched screams and quieter, whimpering cries.
Loud screeches often indicate aggression or a willingness to fight; these typically signal an aerial predator to back off from its intended prey.
They are accompanied by the flapping of wings and talons as the hawk beats its victim.
Quieter calls often signal a willingness to mate.
The male and female birds will perform mating rituals such as soaring in the sky together or performing aerial acrobatics.
At other times, hawks emit a combination of loud screeches and quieter hums that indicate a state of agitation.
This often comes before the flapping of wings and talons that accompany fighting or mating.
Screeching to Warn Other Hawks
However, it can also signal an imminent attack on prey or a rival hawk encroaching upon its territory.
Hawks enter into trance-like states in which they screech continuously for minutes at a time until suddenly ceasing as if nothing had happened.
Most people do not consider hawks to be among the most graceful of birds; they fly erratically and make sudden movements that seem to catch even other raptors off guard (such as their ground-based cousins, eagles).
As such, it may seem surprising that they would use calls to communicate with each other at all – so why do hawks screech?
As with all animals, it is a by-product of evolution: in order to survive and perpetuate their species, so too must they communicate.
Hawks scratching and clawing at each other would be counterproductive to reproduction; using calls to signal intentions is much more efficient.
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