Learn about native animals

Australian hobby

Can I catch birds in mid-air?

Absolutely! I’m well known for my ability to catch other birds while in flight.

Who am I?

I’m called an Australian hobby (Falco longipennis), and am also known as the ‘little falcon’ as I’m often mistaken for a small peregrine falcon. I may be small, but I’m incredibly fast and a skilled acrobat when on the hunt. My compact size helps me with my swift manoeuvres and high-speed chases in pursuit of my quick prey.

I catch my prey in the air and sometimes eat it while in-flight. I can eat my prey on my wing or carry it to a high perch to eat.

What do I look like?

I look slightly different depending if I’m male, female and where I live, but I generally have a dark (almost black) head and mask, blackish-grey wings and back, with darker bars on my tail, edged with fine white tips.

I have a creamy-white collar, which covers just the front of my neck. My belly is reddish-brown which is often lighter near my breast, gradually moving to a darker brown with dark streaks towards my long, square-cut tail. Underneath my wings I’m a reddish-brown colour scattered with light brown spots.

My bill is blue-grey with a black tip and surrounded by a pale yellowish-grey base (known as a cere) above it. My legs and feet are pale yellow and there is a pale blue ring surrounding my brown eyes.

My plumage can vary in colour, ranging from darker in humid climates and lightening up in drier areas. I range in size from about 30-36 centimetres with a wingspan between 66-87 centimetres.

Just like many other raptors the females are larger than males.

Some say I’m hard to tell apart from a peregrine falcon however, as well as being nearly half their size, I am generally longer and slimmer with darker feathers.

Where do I live?

I can be found throughout mainland Australia but can rarely be found in Tasmania. I like open areas with lots of trees like woodlands, forests and bushland.

Although I’m the ‘Australian’ hobby, I can be found wider within Australiasia, including in Indonesia and New Guinea

I’m very adaptable and can be found wherever there’s enough trees, including cities and suburbs. In Adelaide, you can spot me in the Adelaide Park Lands and along the coast.

What do I like to eat?

My diet consists mostly of small birds and large flying insects. I’ve been known to come crashing into trees to startle and coax out my unsuspecting prey – and then quickly nab them.

I usually hunt at dusk or when there is artificial light – like street lights – around and have been known to catch small mammals, bats and birds up to my own body size too.

I’m a stealth hunter known to pursue my prey in a series of short shallow drops. Or hiding behind dunes, cliffs or trees when hunting small birds.

What do I sound like?

I have two main calls, one is a fast, chatter sounding like ‘ki,ki,ki' used as an alarm when bringing prey to my nest. I also have a chittering call that sounds squeakier and is used more during feeding my young and when showing that I’m the boss. Listen to my call.

What are my breeding habits?

Nesting season depends on where I live in Australia and can be between July to November in the north and August to January in the south. I can live up to 11 years.

I prefer to skip the hard work of creating a nest from scratch during breeding season and I instead find an empty stick nest in a tree, created by another animal – and I sometimes give it a renovation.

I lay around 2-4 off-white or pinkish coloured eggs scattered with dark splotches. Our parents keep the eggs warm for about a month, and while both the males and females can incubate them, it is most often done by mum.

While I'm incubating the eggs the male ramps up his hunting efforts to feed the chicks when they hatch. After losing their creamy down and getting feathered up, our young are darker and browner than us with lighter coloured legs and feet.

What can you do to help?

Raptors such as us are vital to Adelaide because we are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. We feed on pest species like introduced house sparrows and European starlings, but having us around indicates that there are generally healthy populations of a wide variety of birds.

My conservation status in South Australia and the rest of Australia is secure – so we’re doing well, and if you have keen eyesight, you might see me around.

Due to my preference for nesting in tall trees, I can sometimes be trying to raise a family in local backyards and parks and reserves. If you see us regularly in a local tree and hear our calls, please take extra care to avoid disturbing us and possibly causing our chicks to fledge prematurely. Contact your local wildlife authority for more information on how best to avoid disturbing us if you need to.

Please be aware that the use of rat poison can kill birds like me. If you choose to use poison to control rats and mice, please look into bird-friendly rodent control to ensure you are not poisoning me along with your unwanted pests.