The Hobby (Falco subbuteo) fast and agile summer visitor, feeding on dragonflies and young birds


Recognisable in flight by its long swept back wings, square tipped tail and speedy hunting tactics.

The Hobby has a dark eye ring and moustache stretching below the beak and a white throat leading down to bold dark streaks on the breast, the back is dark grey. On closer inspection the adults can be seen to have red ‘trousers’ and undertail (vent) – a feature that is missing on the juveniles.

Length: 28-35cm; wingspan: 70-84cm

Status in UK
2,200 pairs, in the year 2000; increasing in number; GREEN listed; summer visitor/migrant breeder, normally arrives in the south of England in late April and departs in September or early October.

Population Trends
Breeding populations of Hobbies are in general confined to England, but as the population grows their distribution is increasing throughout the UK.

During the 1950’s the UK population was as low as 100 pairs and in 1972, surveys showed them to be confined to the South West of England.

Hobbies have now spread northwards into southern Scotland; this may be down to them no longer being dependant on traditional heathland nest sites, or because of the northward spread of dragonflies and beetles that form a large part of their diet.

Habitat and Distribution
Hobbies prefer areas of heathland, arable land, woodland edges especially in areas close to water or fenland where there primary diet of insects is easily accessible. One of the largest concentrations of hobbies in the UK can be seen on passage during May, at Shapwick Moor National Nature Reserve, which adjoins the Hawk and Owl Trust’s Shapwick Moor Reserve on the Somerset Levels.

Utilise old crows’ nests, but will also use old sparrowhawk nests or squirrel dreys. First breeds at 2 years, laying 2-3 eggs in a single brood; typical lifespan is 5 years.

Insects, especially dragonflies; birds especially swallows, swifts and martins all caught on the wing. Dragonflies are consumed on the wing.

Other Diurnal Birds of Prey