Quick facts

Common names: hobby, Eurasian hobby

Scientific name: Falco subbuteo

Family: Falconidae (falcons)

Habitat: open woodland, farmland, wetland, grassland

Diet: birds, dragonflies and other flying insects

Predators: adults have no known predators

Origin: native

What do hobbies look like?

Hobbies have a grey-brown head with white cheeks and a yellow and black hooked bill. Their breast is white with dark streaks, while the thighs are a rusty-red colour. The presence of these red ‘trousers’ is the easiest way to distinguish the hobby from the similarly-sized kestrel and the much larger peregrine.

Their wings are greyish on top and white with dark streaks underneath, and appear long and pointed in flight.

Credit: FLPA / Alamy Stock Photo

What do hobbies eat?

Hobbies are among the most agile and acrobatic birds of prey. They are capable of catching fast-flying birds such as swallows and swifts in mid-air. Another important food source is dragonflies, which are also caught, and sometimes eaten, in flight.

How do hobbies breed?

Rather than build their own nests, hobbies rely on those built by other species such as crows. Two to three eggs are normally laid in June, hatching after around a month. The chicks spend roughly a month in the nest before fledging and are fully independent by the end of summer.

Credit: David Kjaer / naturepl.com

Do hobbies migrate?

The hobby is a summer visitor to the UK, coming here to breed before heading south for the winter. Birds begin to arrive from late March onwards and start to depart from late August, with almost all having left by October. Hobbies spend the winter in tropical Africa, flying thousands of miles each year.

Did you know?

Hobbies are falcons, meaning their closest UK relatives are the kestrel, peregrine and merlin.

Where do hobbies live?

Hobbies rely on open areas for hunting, but will use trees and open woodland for breeding. They are often found close to flooded gravel pits and other wetland habitats, taking advantage of the large number of dragonflies.

The species is now found across much of England and Wales and its range is expanding north, with Scotland’s first breeding pair recorded in 2001.

Credit: Amy Lewis / WTML

Signs and spotting tips

The time to see hobbies in the UK is over the summer, when they migrate here to breed. Look out for hobbies on the hunt for dragonflies above gravel pits and other water bodies.

Hobby call

Audio: Charles Farrell / xeno-canto.org

Threats and conservation

The hobby population has grown significantly in recent decades. It’s thought this could be linked to an increase in flooded gravel pits and reservoirs having led to a rise in dragonfly numbers. It has also been suggested that the species may be benefitting from the UK’s warming climate. An estimated 2,800 pairs breed here each year.

Did you know?

The football game 'Subbuteo' is based on the Latin name for hobby because it was the designer’s favourite bird. In English, Subbuteo means ‘smaller than buzzard’.


Bird of prey calls and identification

Amy Lewis  •  10 Sep 2021

Learn how to identify the UK's birds of prey with our quick guide to their calls, key features and likely hangouts. 

Identify birds of prey