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A photo of a Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis)
Australian Hobby

Australian Hobby

Falco longipennis

The Australian hobby, or little falcon (Falco longipennis), is a dashing bird of prey, a member of the Falconidae family. It is distinguished by its long primary wing feathers, which give it a graceful and agile appearance in flight. This bird is smaller and more slender than other falcons, with a wingspan that ranges from 66 to 87 centimeters. The males are typically between 30 and 32 centimeters in length, while females are slightly larger, measuring between 34 and 35.5 centimeters.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Australian hobby, look for its black cap and mask, contrasted with a whitish forehead and half-collar. The underparts may be blue-grey or rufous, streaked with darker shades. Adults have a pale yellowish-grey cere, pale blue eye ring, brown eyes, and dull yellow feet. The species can be confused with the peregrine falcon but is more slender with longer, thinner wings and is less powerful in flight.

Habitat

The Australian hobby can be found in a variety of open habitats, including open woodlands, watercourses, and vegetated urban areas. It is rarely seen around cliffs or escarpments.

Distribution

This bird is widespread across mainland Australia and its offshore islands, such as Lord Howe Island. Its range is somewhat restricted in Tasmania. The Australian hobby also reaches the islands of Indonesia and New Guinea, with migrating individuals observed in these locations.

Behaviour

The Australian hobby is a solitary and aggressive falcon, known for its rapid, flickering wingbeats and ability to hover with a fanned tail. It glides with flat or slightly drooped wings and is characterized by low, fast, and often zig-zagging flight patterns. The species is also known for its territorial defense, soaring and circling to ward off other birds of prey.

Song & Calls

The Australian hobby emits a variety of calls, including a rapid, peevish chatter "Kee-Kee-Kee-Kee-Kee" used by males when bringing prey to the nest and by both sexes in alarm. Another call is a squeaky chittering and ticking, used in social dominance and food-related contexts. Juveniles have their own begging and alarm calls, distinct from the adults.

Breeding

Breeding season for the Australian hobby typically occurs between August and January. The species often uses old stick nests of other large raptors, laying three to four heavily blotched eggs. Incubation lasts about 35 days, and successful broods usually comprise two to three young. Fledglings remain dependent for up to three months before dispersing or migrating.

Similar Species

The Australian hobby is similar in appearance to the peregrine falcon but can be distinguished by its more slender build and longer, thinner wings.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Australian hobby includes avian species such as the European starling, house sparrow, crimson rosella, and silvereye. It avoids large, dangerous, or agile species that forage close to cover. The hobby also preys on insectivorous bats and insects like beetles, cicadas, crickets, and grasshoppers.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Australian hobby as a species of least concern. It is included on Appendix II of CITES, indicating that it is not currently threatened with extinction but may become so without close control of trade. The introduction of DDT to agriculture led to eggshell thinning and some local population declines, but the species has not experienced widespread decline. The Australian hobby is susceptible to the columbid herpesvirus-1, often contracted through predation on rock pigeons.

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