The Eurasian hobby (Falco subbuteo), or just simply hobby, is a small slim falcon. It belongs to a rather close-knit group of similar falcons often considered a subgenus Hypotriorchis.
Taxonomy and systematics
The first formal description of the Eurasian hobby was by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae under the present binomial name Falco subbuteo. The genus name falco derives from Late Latin falx, falcis, a sickle, referring to the claws of the bird. The species name subbuteo is from Latin sub, "near to" and buteo, "buzzard". The species' English name comes from Old French hobé or hobet. It became the trademark for the Subbuteo games company after its creator was refused permission to register "Hobby".
Adults are slate-grey above with a dark crown and two short black moustachial stripes. The throat is unstreaked white, thighs and undertail coverts are unstreaked rufous and rest of the underparts are whitish with black streaks. Close views enable the red "trousers" and vent to be seen. Sexes are similar. Juveniles are generally much browner, with scaled upper parts and streaked buffy thighs and undertail coverts.
The hobby has a distinct first-summer plumage.
This falcon is 29–36 cm (11–14 in) in length with a wingspan of 74–84 cm (29–33 in) and a weight of 175–285 g (6.2–10.1 oz).
Distribution and status
This species breeds across Africa, Europe and Asia. It is a long-distance migrant, wintering in Africa and Asia.
Behaviour and ecology
It is a bird of open country such as farmland, marshes, taiga and savannah. They are widespread in lowlands with scattered small woods. It is an elegant bird of prey, appearing sickle-like in flight with its long pointed wings and square tail, often resembling a swift when gliding with folded wings. It is fast and powerful in flight and will take large insects, such as dragonflies, which it transfers from talons to beak and eats while soaring slowly in circles. It also captures small bats and small birds in flight. Its speed and aerobatic skills enable it to take swallows and even swifts on the wing, and barn swallows or house martins have a characteristic "hobby" alarm call. It is known to harass swallows while they are roosting and dispersing from roosts. When not breeding, it is crepuscular, hawking principally in the mornings and evenings. While on migration, they may move in small groups.
Hobbies nest in old nests of crows and other birds. The tree selected is most often one in a hedge or on the extreme edge of a spinney, whence the bird can observe intruders from a considerable distance. It lays 2–4 eggs. Incubation is said to take 28 days and both parents share in this duty, though the female does the greater part.
It is a very bold and courageous bird and was used in falconry, trained to hawk birds like quails, larks, hoopoes, drongos, etc.