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Abstract and Summary

In this paper I review reports in the literature in which hawks (mainly species of Accipiter) pursued avian prey without apparently trying to capture them (Table 1). In some reports the hawks were in turn chased by the prey as well (Table 2). The species that were pursued in “playful” fashion were either belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon), woodpeckers or corvids. The pursuits have been interpreted in the literature as play behaviour.

A search of the literature showed that many species of woodpeckers and corvids are eaten by accipiters (Table 3). However, the species that are pursued in “playful” fashion are generally those woodpeckers and corvids that are larger than the male or female accipiter pursuing them (Table 4). It is not surprising that the smallest of the accipiters (A. striatus) was involved in most of the pursuits that have been recorded (Tables 1 and 2).

I argue that the hawks were inexperienced, hungry individuals which pursued inappropriately large prey. The prey's behaviour is interpreted as mobbing. They are safe because they can escape by diving into the water (kingfisher), they are larger than the hawk or they outnumber it.