Scientific name: Falco subbuteo


Hobbies are similar in size to kestrels.  They have long, pointed wings that reach to or beyond the short tail, and in flight often appear crescent-shaped.  The upperparts are grey and the underparts are pale and barred, with a distinctive red undertail and thighs.  Facially, they are similar  to peregrines, with a black moustache and white cheeks and throat.

Habitat and Distribution

Hobbies dwell in open areas but have colonised a wide range of habitats, including farmland, marshes, savannah and taiga.  They have a very wide distribution, being found across most of Europe and Asia.  Within the UK they breed across much of England and south wales but are not common in Scotland, with only a small number  seen per year, on migration.  They are absent from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Global distribution of the hobby (IUCN 2011)


Hobbies feed on large insects such as dragonflies which they eat while soaring in slow circles.  They are very fast and acrobatic fliers and will also take small bats and birds on the wing, such as swallows, swifts and martins.


Hobbies breed across Africa, Asia and Europe and over-winter in Africa and Asia.  They arrive in the UK from April onwards and depart again in August-September.  They nest in old nests of other birds, such as crows.  The female lays 2-4 eggs and both parents share the incubation period, thought to be about 28 days.  The young fledge after 4-5 weeks and continue to be fed by the parents for another 1-2 weeks.

Status and Threats

Eurasian hobbies are classified by the IUCN as ‘Least Concern’.  Illegal hunting on migration is a problem and intensification of agriculture has led to a decline in songbirds and insects.  Bailing twine used by farmers can kill both young and adult hobbies.

Within the UK they are strictly protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.    It is an offence to intentionally take, injure or kill a hobby or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young. It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds close to their nest during the breeding season.  Violation can result in a fine of up to £5000 and/or a prison sentence of up to 6 months.