Australian Bush Birds
Australian Hobby, Little Falcon  -  Falco longipennis
Australian Hobby
Perched Australian Hobby, note the long talons - Bladenburg Nat Pk, Queensland.
Hobby Hobby
Head of Australian Hobby with black crown and buff-cream forehead, throat and side of neck are black .
map map The Australian Hobby - Falco longipennis - also known as the Little Falcon, is a small falcon (males 30 centimetres long, females are up to 35 centimetres long, wingspan is 66-87 centimetres); the average male weighs 217 grams, the females weigh 270 grams.

Male and female are similar in appearance. Back and wings are blue-grey to grey, with greyer edging to back and wing feathers. Flight and tail feathers are dusky grey. Sides of face and crown are black; forehead, throat and sides of neck are buff-cream. Undersides rufous-brown, streaked black on breast and thighs grading to black mottling on belly and flanks. Eye is dark brown, eye-ring bluish-white. Bill is light grey with black tip. Feet dull yellow, claws dusky.

Australian Hobby - page 2
The wingtips are slightly longer than the tail in a sitting bird.

Juveniles have darker, richer plumage colours; legs and feet are pale greyish yellow.

Some authorities describe versions longipennis and murchisonianus in Australia, but descriptions are inconsistent and others hold that subspecies are not valid for this species.

Found throughout Australia, but not common in Tasmania

The Hobby preys on birds, bats and flying insects, taking them in mid air after pursuit or in power dives from above. Flight is direct and swift with rapid, shallow wingbeats; in pursuit of birds, wing action becomes vigorous and the wings curve back; fleeing birds are overtaken using speed and agility and struck in a swooping dive from behind. Aerobatic skills enable the Hobby to take, in flight, large insects, bats and birds in size from swallows to parrots.

The Australian Hobby is a solitary and aggressive falcon living in open habitats, including vegetated urban areas, but is rare around cliffs and escarpments; mostly characteristic of open woodlands and watercourses. It is usually wary. Flight can be low, fast and zigzagging between trees, or soaring and gliding. It is aerobatic in pursuit of small birds, bats and flying insects and attacks fleeing birds in a series of short, shallow dives. It often harasses larger birds but cannot kill them. Mostly eats terrrestrial birds such as larks, pipits, finches, doves and small parrots but also takes aerial species such as swallows. In farmland and town its prey is mainly sparrows and starlings. Most prey is less than 100 grams in weight and rarely more than 200 grams. Occasionally steals mice from Nankeen Kestrels and is active well after dusk taking bats or large flying insects.

It seldom lands on the ground, preferring prey it can eat on the wing or on a high perch. Most perches are high, exposed branches where the hobby rests or watches for movements of prey. It searches a lot on the wing.

Breeding takes place from September to November in southern Australia and August to January elsewhere. Hobby pairs take over an abandoned old stick nest built high in trees or on power pylons by another species (magpies, crows, etc) and line it with leaves or bark; sometimes they use a tree hollow. The taken over nest is defended fiercely and noisily by the new owners.

Two or three (sometimes four) eggs are laid; pale buff, thickly sprinkled with red spots and blotches; oval, about 46 by 34 millimetres. Incubation takes about 30 days; the female incubates the eggs while the male hunts; she leaves the nest to take food either by aerial transfer or at a nearby tree. After eggs hatch the female collects food from the male and feeds it to the young. After the young begin growing feathers, food items are dropped at the nest and the young feed themselves. The nestling period is 34 to 38 days and the dependence period afterwards lasts up to three months then the young disperse or migrate widely (up to 900 kilometres).

 ¶  Genus Falco is the only genus in Family Falconidae and contains other Falcons and the Nankeen Kestrel.

 ¶  Also known as the Little Falcon.