Hawking (birds)

Hawking (birds)

Hawking, or hawking insects, is the primary feeding strategy for some birds, including most typical nightjars and some Old World flycatchers, monarch flycatchers, and tyrant flycatchers. Many other species, such as the honeyeaters of Australasia, hawk insects as their main source of nutrition or a supplement to their usual sources.

The term comes from the similarity of this behaviour to the way hawks take prey in flight, although, unlike most hawks, birds hawking insects do not catch their prey with their feet. Typically, a bird that is hawking will watch for prey from a suitable perch. When it spies potential prey, the bird will chase it and catch it in its beak, then return to the perch or sometimes to a different perch. Prey that is very small relative to the bird, such as gnats, may be consumed immediately while in flight, but larger prey, such as moths, are usually brought back to a perch before being eaten.

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