Eurasian hobby (Falco subbuteo)

Also known as: European hobby, hobby, northern hobby
French: Faucon hobereau
GenusFalco (1)
SizeLength: 28 - 36 cm (2)
Wingspan: 69 - 84 cm (2)
Male weight: 131 - 232 g (2)
Female weight: 141 - 340 g (2)
Top facts

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

The Eurasian hobby is a small, slender falcon with a relatively long, square tail, and long, scythe-like wings, giving it the appearance of a large swift in flight (4) (5) (6). The upperparts and crown are slate grey, while the underparts are whitish or buff, heavily streaked black, with distinctive chestnut thighs and vent, and barred underwings and undertail. A pale throat and pale, double-peaked cheeks contrast with a bold, dark ‘moustache’, and there is a short, thin white streak above the eye (2) (4) (5) (6). The legs and facial skin are yellow (4). The male and female Eurasian hobby are similar in appearance, while the juvenile can be distinguished by the browner, more mottled plumage, buff rather than chestnut thighs and vent, and bluish-grey to greenish legs and facial skin (2) (4) (5). The calls of the Eurasian hobby include a clear, repeated kew or ket, and a loud, frenetic kree-kree-kree-kree (4) (5).

The Eurasian hobby occurs across Africa, Europe and Asia. Subspecies Falco subbuteo subbuteo is found in northwest Africa and Europe, east through central Asia and northern China, as far as Kamchatka and Japan, while Falco subbuteo streichi is found in southern and eastern China, and possibly into South East Asia (2) (4) (7). F. s. streichi is mainly sedentary, but F. s. subbuteo is migratory, wintering in central and southern Africa and southern Asia (2) (4).

The Eurasian hobby typically inhabits relatively open areas with some trees, such as open woodland, forest or river edges, wooded savannah, cultivation or scrub with clumps of trees, scattered trees or copses, or fields with hedgerows. It is often found close to rivers or wetlands, and also sometimes occurs in more urban environments (2) (4) (8).

The Eurasian hobby hunts on the wing, often at dusk, using its rapid and acrobatic flight to out-manoeuvre even the most agile prey. The diet consists mainly of flying insects, which are usually eaten in flight, as well as small birds, particularly swallows, martins and swifts. Other prey, such as bats and lizards, are also occasionally taken, and the hobby often follows fires or farm vehicles, which flush out prey (2) (4) (5) (6).

Breeding takes place relatively late in the year, usually from late May to August, allowing the Eurasian hobby to feed its chicks on an abundance of dragonflies and fledgling birds (4) (9). During courtship, the breeding pair may perform spectacular aerial food-passes,in which the male passes prey to the female at lightning speed (4) (6). Two to four eggs are laid, in the disused nest of another species, almost always in a tree (2) (4) (5). Incubation, which lasts from 27 to 33 days, is mainly performed by the female, while the male hobby does most of the hunting (2) (9). The young leave the nest at 28 to 34 days, and are dependent on the adults for a further 5 weeks (2) (4). Lifespan may be up to ten years or more in the wild (2).

Although Eurasian hobby numbers often show local fluctuations, overall the species is believed to be relatively stable, and not globally threatened (2) (4) (7). This small falcon appears to adapt fairly well to intensive agriculture, and various aspects of its behaviour, such as its tolerance of habitat fragmentation, its diet of aerial prey, which may be less affected by pesticides, and its late breeding, which overlaps less with local hunting seasons, are thought to have helped protect it from many of the threats faced by other birds of prey (4) (10). However, nest predation by crows and squirrels in increasingly disturbed environments is of some concern, and marked declines in many avian prey populations, particularly those of swallows, martins, swifts and larks, could prove an increasing threat (4) (10).

The Eurasian hobby is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning international trade in the species should be carefully controlled (3). It is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range (11). There are no conservation measures known to be specifically aimed at this species, but measures such as reducing pesticide output, ensuring the availability of nesting trees, and expanding insect-rich habitats (10), as well as conservation efforts aimed at the hobby’s prey species, may help to protect this acrobatic small falcon.

To find out more about the conservation of the Eurasian hobby and other birds of prey see:





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

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 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 (July, 2009)
  4. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World. Helm Identification Guides, A & C Black Publishers, London.
  5. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (2001) A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts.
  6. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  7. BirdLife International (July, 2009)
  8. Sinclair, I. and Davidson, I. (2006) Sasol Southern African Birds: A Photographic Guide. Struik, Cape Town.
  9. Parr, S.J. (1985) The breeding ecology and diet of the hobby Falco subbuteo in southern England. Ibis, 127: 60 - 73.
  10. Sergio, F. and Bogliani, G. (1999) Eurasian hobby density, nest area occupancy, diet, and productivity in relation to intensive agriculture. The Condor, 101: 806 - 817.
  11. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (July, 2009)