The African Hobby: An Avian Sensation
The African Hobby is a small, colourful bird found throughout Africa, from the Mediterranean coast of Egypt to central and southern Africa. They are a species of falcon, known for their vibrant plumage, their aerial prowess and their ability to thrive in a wide variety of habitats. Herein we will take an in-depth look into this remarkable avian species.
Identifying the African Hobby
The African Hobby is an overall brownish-grey color, with a streak of black on its face, a white chest and sides speckled with black. Its tail is long and dark with two thin orange-yellow stripes. The bird is roughly the size of a Common Grackle, usually weighing between 45-55 grams and measuring 22-25 cm in length.
During courtship season, the African Hobby male will exhibit a radiating dun colouring on its head, breast and upper wings. This is a behaviour unique to the species, which also serves to identify them from other similar looking species. When flying, the Hobby has a distinctive rowing motion, another clue for identification.
Where the African Hobby Can Be Found
The African Hobby has a wide range when it comes to their range and habitat preferences. Although they are primarily found in open areas such as savannahs, grasslands and even dry desert regions, they have been known to live in cultivated areas and Thickets as well. Additionally, they are regularly found along the Mediterranean coast of Egypt—and adjacent areas of Sudan—and in other regions of North and West Africa.
At the southern end of their range they inhabit South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique. Overall, they are very adaptable and prefer areas of low human population density.
Unique Diet of the African Hobby
The African Hobby has a diet that is truly special. Instead of feeding on mammals or other birds, they rely on large insects such as dragonflies, moths and grasshoppers. When possible, they will also prey upon smaller bats, songbirds and even young rodents. With such a diverse diet, this gives them an edge when it comes to competing with other predators in the area.
The African Hobby as a Bird of Prey
Along with their impressive diet and range of habitat, the African Hobby is also a formidable hunter. It is both ravenous and agile when on the hunt, capable of making quick dives towards its prey and swooping them up without fail. Their wingspan is also noteworthy, measuring around 52 cm when outstretched.
In addition to preying on airborne insects, the Hobby also frequents water bodies for sustenance. As part of its hunting strategy, the Hobby will entertain the thought of wading in shallow waters strategically. Doing so allows them the unique advantage of pouncing on unsuspecting or distracted aquatic prey from the sidelines.
The African Hobby Breeding Habits
In terms of breeding habits, the African Hobby tends to establish nests in hollow trees or rock crevices, preferably near open grasslands or savannah environments. Both parents are responsible for the construction of the nest, which can take up to two weeks to build and become beneficial to the nestlings. The nest itself is made up of a small platform of twigs with a shallow bowl at its centre, lined with a soft downy material.
The female African Hobby typically lays her eggs in the month of October and incubates them for the duration of 28 to 30 days. During this period, the male will guard her and the nest with zeal. As soon as the eggs hatch, both parents will take on the task of feeding the helpless nestlings.
By the time they fledge, the young birds are capable of feeding on their own and will eventually disperse during the months of December and January.
The African Hobby is an enchanting and captivating species of bird. Its impressive range, diverse diet, aerial agility and magnificent plumage are attributes that have gained it recognition and appreciation all over the world. Along with its conservation status as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, this avian species is certainly worth the effort to observe and admire during your next southern African adventure.
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