Falcons are NOT hawks.
More Info: While both are raptors, falcons and hawks are two very different animals. In traditional taxonomy, most species of both fall under the family of Accipitridae but completely differ in genus and species. For comparison, foxes and wolves also belong to the same family but differ in genus and species.
While the term “hawk” is often used to describe many birds of prey, true hawks fall into a limited number of genera. Hawks are generally larger than falcons and are adapted for rapid dives, more often from a hidden perch than from the air. Hawks will use their powerful talons to catch and skill their prey. They glide slowly but are still quick to change direction.
All falcons belong to the genus falco. They are generally small, designed for speed and rapid changes in direction over power. They catch and kill their prey with their beaks rather than their talons and are more prone to aerial hunting. Falcons are very fast and highly maneuverable in flight. In fact, the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth, capable of reaching speeds up to 200 mph.
How to Tell the Difference
The fastest way to differentiate between a hawk and a falcon is the shape of their wings and beaks. Falcons will usually have thin, pointed wings for speed and short, fan-shaped tails. Hawks have usually have broader wings and longer, more arrow-shaped tails. Hawks have notched beaks that hook downward at an angle while falcons have one smooth, downward curve.
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“New York Wildlife: Birds: Eagles and Hawks.” Eagles and Hawks of New York. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. http://www.nyfalls.com/wildlife/Wildlife-birds-eagles-hawks.html