African hobby (Falco cuvierii)

French: Hobereau africain
GenusFalco (1)
SizeLength: 28 - 30 cm (2)
Male weight: 125 - 178 g (2)
Female weight: 186 - 224 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The African hobby is a small, dark falcon with a slim body and long, scythe-like wings, which reach to the end of the tail when the bird is perched (4) (5) (6). The throat, chest and underparts are a rich chestnut colour, finely streaked with black, and the back, wings and tail are dark grey to slate black. The chestnut-buff cheeks are marked with a distinctive black ‘moustache’, the eyes are dark brown, surrounded by a ring of yellow skin, and the cere and the legs are yellow. The female African hobby is slightly larger than the male, while juveniles are distinguished by having duller upperparts, edged in brown, and more heavily streaked underparts (2) (4) (6). The call of the African hobby is a high-pitched kik-kik-kik-kik (7).

The African hobby occurs throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal and Gambia east to Somalia, and south to South Africa (2) (6) (8). The species may be locally migratory in parts of West Africa (2).

Inhabits open, moist woodland, damp wooded savanna, forest edges and large clearings, often where oil or coconut palm trees are present, up to elevations of 2,500 to 3,000 metres (2) (4) (6) (7) (9).

The African hobby hunts on the wing, chasing after its prey with great speed and agility. Insects, especially winged termites, make up the bulk of the diet, and are eaten in flight. Small birds and possibly a few small mammals are also caught, especially during the breeding season, and are taken to a perch to consume (2) (4) (5) (6). Most hunting takes place at dawn and dusk, the birds resting in tall trees for much of the day. Although generally found alone or in pairs, groups of up to 30 African hobbies may congregate when termites or locusts are swarming (2) (4).

Like other falcons, the African hobby does not build its own nest, but instead takes over the nests of other species, such as crows, often evicting the original owners (2) (5) (6). Breeding takes place between December and April in western and north-eastern Africa, and between August and November in more southern areas. Two to three eggs are laid and hatch after an incubation period of around 30 days, during which time the male brings food to the female. The young fledge after about 30 days (2).

Having a wide distribution, a large global population, and even being found within cities, such as Kampala in Uganda (9), the African hobby is not currently considered to be globally threatened (2) (8). Pesticide use, which can threaten other birds of prey, is not known to affect this species (2).

The African hobby is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in African hobbies should be carefully monitored and controlled (3). However, there are no other known conservation measures currently in place for this species.

To find out more about bird of prey conservation, see:

For more information on the African hobby and other birds of prey see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Authenticated (07/05/10) by Dr Alan Kemp, retired Curator, Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (previously Transvaal Museum), and Research Associate, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2009)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (January 2009)
  4. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World. Helm Identification Guides, A & C Black Publishers, London.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  6. Kemp, A. and Kemp, M. (1998) Sasol Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands. New Holland, Cape Town.
  7. Sinclair, I. and Davidson, I. (2006) Sasol Southern African Birds: A Photographic Guide. Struik, Cape Town.
  8. BirdLife International (January, 2009)
  9. Kemp, A. (May, 2010) Pers. comm.