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What is a Group of Hawks Called? Names and Facts

a cast of hawks

Groups of birds have intriguing names. If you're an ardent birder, you want to know as many of these names as possible to participate actively in conversations with other birders.

So, what's a group of hawks called? Their collective noun will amaze you. Read on!

What is a Group of Hawks Called?

As with other species, the nouns that describe them date back to the Late Middle Ages.

A group of hawks is called a cast, kettle, soar or fold. These birds of prey in the genus Accipiter inhabit many regions worldwide. They live in woodlands and feed on rodents, mammals, and reptiles. They are known for their graceful flight and call.

A cast is when hawks perform aerial maneuvers together. Other birders call this act a kettle or soar. A fold is when they are more sedate. Hawks come together in flocks for migration and courtship. Smaller hawk species migrate alone, while the larger ones create roosting groups.

Types of Hawks

Hawks come in many forms, and you can group them into four: Accipiters, Buteos, Aquilas, and Falconiformes. Each group of hawks has species adapted to specific habitats. Some refer to Accipiters as true hawks. With short, rounded wings and long tails, they zip through forests. Cooper's and Goshawk are two examples.

Buteo hawks have broad wings, strong legs, and talons. They live in open areas and hunt small mammals. Members of this group include the red-tailed and broad-winged hawks.

a soaring red-tailed hawk

Aquilas are bigger with long wings and a hooked beak. You may spot these hawks taking advantage of their size to attack larger prey, even oceanic species like seals and penguins. Golden and bald eagles are two examples of this group of hawks.

Falconiformes are fast-flying raptors. They catch their prey mid-air, usually smaller birds and insects. Peregrine falcons and merlins are two types of falcons. No matter what type of hawk you see, they will always amaze you.

The Different Names for a Group of Hawks

There are different names for groups of hawks based on their size and combination.

A two-hawk coalition is sometimes called a pair or an escalier – a French expression that means a pair on a staircase. When three or more hawks join, it is known as a boil. 

As the group increases and becomes more complex, it's a cast or hawks kettling. The choice of a name depends on the situation. 

A cast suggests an activity that brings the bigger group together, like hunting or migrating south for winter. A kettle explains the tangled aerial actions of some large collections during migratory periods.

Lastly, when many hawks join forces in the sky for only part of a year and then break off into smaller flocks for their migration cycle, it's known as an aesthetic drift - one of nature's most beautiful events.

How Hawks Communicate with Each Other

Different species of hawks converse differently, yet most share common characteristics. For example, they use loud vocalizations to outline territories and alert young hawks of potential threats. Also, they use soft sounds to keep track of each other and let others know when they're ready to fly.

This specific call is why groups of hawks are called kettles. They make a loud sound when they decide to fly up simultaneously - kettling. It's an exciting experience to watch huge flocks migrate, with 10,000 birds gathering all over North America in autumn.

The Social Behavior of Hawks

Hawks are social, and each cast is like an extended family, with the oldest hawk being the dominant member. A mating pair builds a nest within the cast's range.

Young hawks generally stay with their original cast until they mature. Then, they may disperse and join another established cast or form their small group.

Groups roost together in communal sites, migrate when food is scarce, and protect their territory from other casts. It's not just hawks that have such communal activities as you see this behavior in other species.

The Role of Hawks in the Ecosystem

Hawks are amazing birds of prey, known for their sharp eyes, claws, and beaks. They benefit the food chain, controlling populations of small mammals and birds. You can find hawks almost everywhere! Common species include the red-tailed hawks (they weigh up to 4 pounds) to the small African pygmy-hawks.

These incredibly talented predators often hunt in groups. A cast of hawks will feed on big animals, or a boil of hawks will swarm to catch small prey like rodents and reptiles. The power and intelligence of individual hawks become more fierce when seen in a group like a boil.

How to Identify a Group of Hawks

Hawks are easy to recognize. They have big heads and long, broad wings. On top of that, they come in many colors, such as red-brown, gray, and black and white stripes. With their sharp vision, hawks spot prey from high in the sky.

Hawks usually hunt alone. But, sometimes, they form casts or boils. The two terms have different meanings. When you spot a small flock, it's a cast. On the other hand, when hawks flock in hundreds, they make a loud sound, like boiling!

You'll see hawks flying in flocks, which is a tactic for them to spot predators fast.


Cast or kettle are the collective nouns to describe a group of hawks. These two collective nouns may also refer to other birds like eagles, falcons, and vultures. Such information helps a bird watcher when reading birding journals or recording sightings.

Learning how to describe species using such collective nouns is one of the many steps toward becoming an exceptional birder. Combine this with learning how to define bird behavior and where they live, and you may become one of the best birders in your area. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a group of hawks called?

The collective noun for this species is a cast. The size of a cast of hawks can vary, but it is typically around five to ten birds. Not all species of hawks form casts. Since some are generally solitary birds, they hunt alone and do not form social groups.

Are all hawks social animals?

No, not all hawks are social animals. Some are solitary birds. In addition, other birds form groups during the hunting and breeding seasons.

Do hawks work together when hunting?

Yes, hawks in a cast will collaborate during hunting. They communicate and often take turns chasing prey to tire it out.

Do hawks mate for life?

No, hawks do not mate for life. They typically mate with a new partner each breeding season.

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