Hawk vs. Buzzard: Know the Difference
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on November 8, 2023
Hawks are agile predators with sharp talons, while buzzards, a term often used in Europe for certain hawks, generally refer to broader-winged soaring birds.
In literature and common language, "hawk" is sometimes used metaphorically to describe a person who advocates for aggressive policies or actions, particularly in politics and military. Buzzards, conversely, do not commonly carry such connotations in language. They are often seen more neutrally or sometimes negatively associated with death and scavenging due to their habit of feeding on carrion.
While both hawks and buzzards are majestic birds of prey, the cultural significance and general perception of the two can vary. The term "hawk" often implies precision and fierceness, whereas "buzzard" is typically associated with the act of scavenging and a more passive hunting style.
Hawks are birds of prey known for their keen eyesight and sharp talons, adept at hunting during the day. They are part of the Accipitridae family, which includes other raptors like eagles and kites. Hawks are often smaller and more agile in flight, designed for swift and precise attacks on their prey. Buzzards, in many parts of the world, refer to certain members of the same family, but they are generally larger with broader wings and a preference for soaring.
The behavior of hawks and buzzards can also differ significantly. Hawks, with their agile flying abilities, can maneuver through trees and dense forests. They are often solitary hunters. Buzzards, on the other hand, are commonly observed in open spaces and may gather in groups when conditions are right for hunting or during migration.
In North America, the term "hawk" encompasses a wide range of species, including the sharp-shinned hawk and the red-tailed hawk. These birds are characterized by their predatory skills, often seen diving at high speeds to catch rodents, birds, and other small animals. Buzzards, such as the common buzzard in Europe, are more likely to be seen circling in the sky, using thermals to glide with minimal effort as they scan the ground for food.
"Hawk" widely used in North America
"Buzzard" used in Europe for certain hawk species
Size and Wingspan
Generally smaller with shorter wings
Usually larger with broader wings for soaring
Agile, prefers live prey, often hunts from the air
Soaring flight, scavenges more often
Solitary, adept at navigating forests
May be gregarious, favors open spaces
Often symbolizes aggression or warlike stance
Less symbolic, sometimes associated with scavenging
Hawk and Buzzard Definitions
Any of various birds of prey, especially of the genera Accipiter and Buteo in the family Accipitridae, characteristically having a short hooked bill and strong claws used for seizing.
Someone with an Opportunistic Stance
He was known as a buzzard, always ready to take advantage of others' misfortunes.
Any of various similar birds of prey.
After the battle, buzzards could be seen picking over the remains on the field.
A person who preys on others; a shark.
Broad-Winged Bird of Prey
The buzzard circled overhead, waiting to spot its next meal on the open ground.
One who demonstrates an actively aggressive or combative attitude, as in an argument.
In the stock market, he was considered a buzzard, always too late to act on good advice.
A person who favors military force or action in order to carry out foreign policy.
Any of various North American vultures, such as the turkey vulture.
An audible effort to clear the throat by expelling phlegm.
Chiefly British A hawk of the genus Buteo, having broad wings and a broad tail.
To hunt with trained hawks.
An avaricious or otherwise unpleasant person.
To swoop and strike in the manner of a hawk
"It was fun to watch the scattered snail kites ... lifting and falling in the wind as they hawked across the shining grass and water" (Peter Matthiessen).
Any of several Old World birds of prey of the genus Buteo with broad wings and a broad tail.
To peddle goods aggressively, especially by calling out.
(North America) Any scavenging bird, such as the American black vulture (Coragyps atratus) or the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura).
To peddle (goods) aggressively, especially by calling out.
In North America, a curmudgeonly or cantankerous man; an old person; a mean, greedy person.
To clear or attempt to clear the throat by or as if by coughing up phlegm.
(archaic) A blockhead; a dunce.
To clear the throat of (phlegm).
(golf) double bogey
A diurnal predatory bird of the family Accipitridae, smaller than an eagle.
It is illegal to hunt hawks or other raptors in many parts of the world.
A bird of prey of the Hawk family, belonging to the genus Buteo and related genera.
Any diurnal predatory terrestrial bird of similar size and appearance to the accipitrid hawks, such as a falcon.
In the United States, a term used for the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), and sometimes indiscriminately to any vulture.
(entomology) Any of various species of dragonfly of the genera Apocordulia and Austrocordulia, endemic to Australia.
A blockhead; a dunce.
It is common, to a proverb, to call one who can not be taught, or who continues obstinately ignorant, a buzzard.
(politics) An advocate of aggressive political positions and actions.
(game theory) An uncooperative or purely-selfish participant in an exchange or game, especially when untrusting, acquisitive or treacherous. Refers specifically to the Prisoner's Dilemma, alias the Hawk-Dove game.
Common in South America and Central America and southern United States
A plasterer's tool, made of a flat surface with a handle below, used to hold an amount of plaster prior to application to the wall or ceiling being worked on: a mortarboard.
The common European short-winged hawk
A noisy effort to force up phlegm from the throat.
Loser in a Situation
In the negotiation, he played the buzzard, walking away with less than he hoped for.
(transitive) To hunt with a hawk.
(intransitive) To make an attack while on the wing; to soar and strike like a hawk.
To hawk at flies
(transitive) To sell; to offer for sale by outcry in the street; to carry (merchandise) about from place to place for sale; to peddle.
The vendors were hawking their wares from little tables lining either side of the market square.
To expectorate, to cough up something from one's throat.
To try to cough up something from one's throat; to clear the throat loudly.
Grandpa sat on the front porch, hawking and wheezing, as he packed his pipe with cheap tobacco.
One of numerous species and genera of rapacious birds of the family Falconidæ. They differ from the true falcons in lacking the prominent tooth and notch of the bill, and in having shorter and less pointed wings. Many are of large size and grade into the eagles. Some, as the goshawk, were formerly trained like falcons. In a more general sense the word is not infrequently applied, also, to true falcons, as the sparrow hawk, pigeon hawk, duck hawk, and prairie hawk.
An effort to force up phlegm from the throat, accompanied with noise.
A small board, with a handle on the under side, to hold mortar.
To catch, or attempt to catch, birds by means of hawks trained for the purpose, and let loose on the prey; to practice falconry.
A falconer Henry is, when Emma hawks.
To make an attack while on the wing; to soar and strike like a hawk; - generally with at; as, to hawk at flies.
A falcon, towering in her pride of place,Was by a mousing owl hawked at and killed.
To clear the throat with an audible sound by forcing an expiratory current of air through the narrow passage between the depressed soft palate and the root of the tongue, thus aiding in the removal of foreign substances.
To raise by hawking, as phlegm.
To offer for sale by outcry in the street; to carry (merchandise) about from place to place for sale; to peddle; as, to hawk goods or pamphlets.
His works were hawked in every street.
Diurnal bird of prey typically having short rounded wings and a long tail
An advocate of an aggressive policy on foreign relations
A square board with a handle underneath; used by masons to hold or carry mortar
Sell or offer for sale from place to place
Hunt with hawks;
The Arabs like to hawk in the desert
Clear mucus or food from one's throat;
He cleared his throat before he started to speak
Bird of Prey
The hawk swooped down to seize its prey with unmatched precision.
In the council, he was known as the hawk, always pushing for a direct military approach.
Walking through the market, the hawk shouted deals at passersby to draw attention to his wares.
To Market Aggressively
She would hawk her artisanal soaps at every craft fair in town.
The old man let out a harsh hawk that echoed through the quiet room.
Repeatedly Asked Queries
Is 'hawk' ever used to describe someone's personality?
Yes, describing someone as a "hawk" can imply they are aggressive or warlike.
Are buzzards considered hawks?
In Europe, buzzards are a type of hawk, but in North America, they're different.
Are all hawks capable of hunting?
Yes, all hawks are predators by nature and have hunting capabilities.
Do buzzards hunt live prey?
Buzzards can hunt live prey, but they also scavenge.
Are buzzards social birds?
Buzzards can be more social than hawks, often seen in groups.
Do hawks mate for life?
Many hawk species are monogamous and may mate for life.
Are hawks diurnal or nocturnal?
Hawks are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.
How can you tell a hawk from a buzzard?
Hawks generally have a more robust build and sharper talons compared to buzzards.
Can hawks be seen in urban areas?
Hawks can adapt to urban environments and are sometimes seen in cities.
Are hawks endangered?
Some hawk species are endangered or threatened due to habitat loss and other factors.
What do buzzards eat?
Buzzards eat a variety of food, including carrion and small mammals.
What is the largest species of hawk?
The Ferruginous Hawk is among the largest species of hawks in North America.
What is the migration pattern of buzzards?
Buzzards may migrate seasonally, depending on the species and region.
Do buzzards have good eyesight?
Yes, buzzards have keen eyesight for spotting food from a distance.
Can buzzards be trained like falcons?
Buzzards can be trained for falconry, but they are not as commonly used as falcons.
How long do buzzards live?
Buzzards can live up to 25 years in the wild, depending on the species.
What is the wingspan of a hawk?
Hawk wingspans vary widely but can reach up to 3 feet or more.
Do buzzards build nests?
Buzzards do build nests, often in trees or on cliffs.
Are hawks solitary?
Most hawks are solitary except during mating season.
Do hawks have predators?
Yes, hawks can fall prey to larger birds of prey and humans.
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Written byShumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.