The hobby is a member of the falcon family roughly the same size as a kestrel and the second smallest falcon in the UK. It arrives here from north west Africa to breed every summer.
Male and female hobbies look identical although the female is the slightly larger bird. Adults have pale creamy underparts with black streaks and long tapered wings, the underparts of which are cream in colour and marked with dark bars and spots, as is the undertail. A useful identification feature are the reddish brown coloured thighs and undertail coverts (the feathers that overlap the belly and tail) easily visible in flight or when the bird is perching on a branch or pole. They particularly stand out surrounded by the paler underparts. The upper parts and upperwing area are a plain slate grey. The head of the hobby is dark with a white chin, cheeks, throat and side of the neck which is split by a black moustache starting below the eye close to the top of the bill, passing in front of the cheek and behind the throat. Hobbies eyes are brown with a yellow eye ring and white eyebrow. The membrane covering the base of the upper mandible, otherwise known as the cere, is bright yellow with the rest of the hooked bill being black. The birds’ legs and feet are yellow with an orange hue and are prominent amongst the red brown coloured thighs. Juveniles have more brown colouration than the adults but lack the rufous colour under the tail.
Hobby showing white cheek and throat patches with black moustache
Generally a silent bird the hobby vocalises during courtship when its calls are similar to a ‘kyu – kyu – kyu’ or ‘kree – kree – kree – kree’.
David Darrell-Lambert, XC477060. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/477060.
The diet of the hobby consists of larger flying insects and small birds such as swallows which is catches on the wing in its talons and will often consume whilst in flight.
Hobby hunting dragonfly
Some years ago a satellite tracking experiment with a hobby found that it took the bird just four days to cross the Saharah Desert and on another occasion a similar bird was recorded as travelling some 1,250 kilometres in just two days.
At home over grassland, heathland, wetlands and woodland areas the hobby can be found across England, most of Wales and more recently in small numbers in southern Scotland, generally appearing between April and October.
A graceful bird to watch in flight, the hobby hunts in swooping and gliding movements able to change height and direction of travel extremely quickly. Its wingbeats are smooth and relaxed although it can accelerate or dive in an instant. The bright white cheek patternation and red brown undertail colouration provide an easy reference for the positive identification of this bird.
A Hobby flying through the air hunting for prey
Hobbies use abandoned nests of other birds in which to lay their eggs, commonly choosing old crows or magpie nests high in the tree tops. One clutch of 2 – 3 yellowy buff eggs with brown markings is laid between June to August and incubated mainly by the female for a month.
A Hobby's nest
Hobby chicks in their nest
The lifespan of the hobby is ten years maximum although usually a lot less.
Eleonora’s falcons are polymorphic. That is to say they have two different plumage patterns and colours which are apparent within the single species. They are also monotypic indicating that there are no sub-species.
Frequently known as simply a peregrine, this magnificent bird, whilst not the fastest in level flight, can achieve incredible speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour when diving on to its prey, making it the fastest of any bird or animal in the world.
The merlin is a predominantly ground nesting falcon and the UK’s smallest bird of prey. Preferring upland and moorland areas for breeding the bird may venture in to lowland regions during the winter when it is joined by migrating merlins from Iceland.