Backyard Buddies
Australian Hobby

Photo: Richard Waring

Australian Hobby

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The Australian Hobby lives across mainland Australia and is sometimes, although rarely, spotted in Tasmania.

The colour of the Australian Hobby's feathers varies across Australia depending on their age, sex and the humidity. Generally a hobby has grey wings and back,and a brown stomach. When the humidity goes up, their feathers will darken and their grey wings can appear black.

They are skilled hunters and one of the fastest, most agile birds of prey. Hobbies are found across the world but this particular buddy is only found in Australia and occasionally Indonesia and New Guinea.

The Australian Hobby is also known as the Little Falcon because it looks a lot like a smaller version of the Peregrine Falcon. The Peregrine Falcon is well-known as it lives on most continents and also holds the record as the fastest animal in the world. But the Australian Hobby certainly gives the Peregrine a run for its money when it comes to speed and mid-air acrobatics.

No matter where you live, you'll have a good chance of seeing this little bird as it is found all over Australia including around towns and cities. You will see Hobby mating pairs spending more time flying low while they search for a nesting site.

During nesting and breeding, the Hobby will settle down and stay in one place for a while instead of their usual long distance flights which can take them thousands of kilometres away from home. They usually make their nests out of the abandoned nests of other birds such as crows. On these platforms of twigs and sticks, the female will lay three small eggs and sit on them for 35 days until they hatch. While the female is sitting on her eggs, the male increases his hunting to feed them both and then the hatched chicks. He will usually visit the nest every three hours with food and will call the female over to collect the meal. He will transfer his food either in mid-air or on a nearby tree. The female then distributes the meat amongst the hungry chicks.

The Australian Hobby does most of its hunting at the end of the day so keep this in mind if you want to spot this buddy. One of the best ways to know if an Australian Hobby is nearby is the alarm calls made by other birds when they appear. The Hobbys call is a quick, repetitive 'ki, ki, ki' sound.

The Australian Hobby flies very quickly, with rapid wing beats. It is a very stealthy and cunning bird who will often stalk its prey. Once they lock eyes onto their prey, they can become a blur in the sky,flying and falling as quickly as possible to grab their food in their talons. The Hobby loves to eat insects such as cicadas and dragonflies and also birds like the sparrow, lorikeet and pigeon. Some of these birds can be just as big as the Hobby.

There is an impressive trick that the Australian Hobby can perform, called 'hawking'. Hawking involves the capture of prey mid-air. The Australian Hobby not only catches their prey in the air but they will often be seen eating while still flying.

Because the Australian Hobby loves to fly at incredible speeds to catch its prey, make sure you don't block its path with dangerous obstacles such as barbed wire and netting. Call your local wildlife carer if you spot an injured animal.

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Photo: OEH