African Hobby (Falco cuvierii)

African Hobby

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco cuvierii | [authority] Smith, 1830 | [UK] African Hobby | [FR] Faucon de Cuvier | [DE] Afrikanischer Baumfalke | [ES] Alcotan Africano | [NL] Afrikaanse Boomvalk


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Falco cuvierii AF e, c, w, se


Members of the genus falco are mostly medium-sized falcons, but vary from the large peregrine falcon to the small American kestrel. The wings are long and pointed and used almost continuously during flight. The bill is short, powerful, and with a distinct ‘tooth’ on each side. Most falcons of this group have a black teardrop-shaped ‘mustache’ mark on each side of the head. Falcons are fastflying birds of open country and are famous for attaining high speeds as they dive from high altitudes to knock birds out of the air.

Physical charateristics

The African hobby is a small, dark falcon with a slim body and long wings, which reach to the end of the tail when the bird is perched. The throat, chest and underparts are a rich chestnut color, finely streaked with black, and the back, wings and tail are dark grey to slate black. The chestnut-buff cheeks are marked with a distinctive black ?moustache?, the eyes are dark brown, surrounded by a ring of yellow skin, and the cere and the legs are yellow. The female African hobby is slightly larger than the male, while juveniles are distinguished by having duller upperparts, edged in brown, and more heavily streaked underparts.

Listen to the sound of African Hobby

[audio: Hobby.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Kaestner, Peter G.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 30 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 32 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa : East, Central, West, Southeast. Sub-Saharan Africa from Senegambia, Guinea, and SIerra Leone south through Nigeria, Cameroon, and Central African Republic, east to southern Chad and Sudan and south to northeastern Namibia, northern Botswana, and northeastern South Africa.


Occurs in open country and at the edges of moist woodlands and forests; most common in palm savanna and gallery forest, and is found within cities. In Zimbabwe and the Zambezi Valley in Zambia, it is associated with palms, while broad-leafed woodland is favored in Namibia. In Kampala, Uganda, it occurs particularly in association with very tall eucalyptus trees. Usually found singly, in pairs, or in small family groups. Tyhpically, this falcon is shy and elusive.


Like other falcons, the African hobby does not build its own nest, but instead takes over the nests of other species, such as crows, often evicting the original owners. In Zimbabwe, old Wahlberg’s Eagle and Yellow-billed Kite nests have been used with eggs being laid in September-November at the end of the dry season. Clutch size is usually three eggs, which are typical of Falco, being buff-colored and densely mottled with blotches and spots of reddish-brown. The eggs are incubated for about a month, fledging period is also about a month.

Feeding habits

Hunts for small birds, bats, and insects on the wing, particularly at dawn and dusk and usually in open clearings or over waterholes. Courses back and forth over good hunting areas, or make fast sorties from a prominent perch. Often joins flocks of European Hobbies and other raptors feeding at alate termite emergences. Insect prey includes cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets, and mantises

Video African Hobby


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Having a wide distribution, a large global population, and even being found within cities, such as Kampala in Uganda, the African hobby is not currently considered to be globally threatened. Pesticide use, which can threaten other birds of prey, is not known to affect this species
African Hobby status Least Concern


Irruptive or local migrant. Movements are still incompletely understood, but it is increasingly apparent that this species is only a breeding summer visitor to southern Africa, with the great majority of records in the region being from September-April. There is also some suggestion of movements in Uganda, where it was commoner from May to October at Teso. In other northern areas, it is reportedly resident, so the origin of the birds showing up in southern Africa is still uncertain.

Distribution map

African Hobby distribution range map

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