Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

The open, watery Weald Moors landscape is such that just about any large raptor native to the UK could turn up at some point during the calendar year. Iconic species such as the Marsh and Hen Harrier have visited the area in the recent past, while Peregrine, Merlin and Raven have also been recorded here. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are year-round residents that are all doing well on the moors, while another falcon that is very adept in wetland habitat also appears to be a growing presence here…

ID: Hobby have an unmistakeable flight pattern that, once seen, is unlikely to be forgotten — Just imagine a very large swift scything through the air on rapier-like wings and you won’t be far off the mark! At closer quarters, this Kestrel-sized falcon bears a superficial resemblance to the Peregrine, with pale cheeks and a contrasting dark moustache. In the field, however, its chestnut thighs and undertail provide a very useful visual clue to its true identity; Hobby regularly hunt along woodland edges and this flash of red is often the first thing you’ll see as they fly away from you at great speed!
The chestnut thighs and undertail of the Hobby help to distinguish it from the Peregrine Falcon (Jim Almond)
In the Field: Hobby overwinter in central and southern Africa, arriving in the UK from April onwards. Open, lowland areas with scattered trees (in which they rest up during the day) are popular destinations, especially where rivers and wetland habitat are also present. The breeding season takes place between May and August and, like all falcons, Hobby take over the disused nests of other birds (such as crows) rather than build their own.
How Are They Doing? The UK population appears to be relatively stable, and Hobby are increasingly seen on farmland. Some local experts believe they have now begun breeding on the Weald Moors, so it is worth looking out for fledged falcons in late summer and early autumn. They lack the chestnut colouring of older birds and are fed by their male parents until very late in the season, just before migration occurs in September.
Hobby are skilled at catching and eating prey, such as dragonfly, on the wing (Jim Almond)
On the Weald Moors: Hobby feed on flying insects (including dragonflies) and small birds (especially swallows, swifts and martins), which they hunt and, in the case of the former, eat on the wing. Water bodies that attract large numbers of both are an obvious starting point for further investigation.  Places where large ponds, pools, ditches and streams coincide with woodland edge (such as Kynnersley Drive, Eyton and Rodway Moor) are certainly worth visiting, especially at dawn or dusk when Hobby are at their most active.


Weald Moors Habitat: Rivers, Streams and Strines

Weald Moors Species: Dragonflies and Damselflies