The Hobby
 Morris's British Birds 1891
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Image Title: Hobby
Description: Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

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Falco—To cut with a bill or hook. Subbuteo, a diminutive of Buteo— A Buzzard.

To my very dear friend, the Rev. R. P. Alington, of Swinhope Rectory, Lincolnshire, I am indebted for the original drawing- of the bird before us; and many others from the same skilful hand will adorn the pages of the present work, in attitudes entirely new and striking.
The Hobby is a spirited and daring hawk, and very determined in pursuit of its game, so that it was formerly much esteemed in falconry, and used accordingly for flying at the smaller birds. It may easily be trained to do so, and becomes very tame when kept in confinement. It has been known to dash through a window into a room, at a bird in a cage; and will occasionally follow sportsmen, and pounce upon the small birds put up by the dogs.
Though a well-known bird,' Mr. Yarrell correctly says, It is not very numerous as a species.' It is, moreover, from its wild nature, difficult to be approached, and when met with within shot, it is generally when off its guard, in pursuit of its prey.
The Hobby is found throughout Europe, occurring in Astrachan, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Kamtschatka, Finland, Lapland, Spain, and many other parts of this continent, and is also known in Africa, and in Asia, in Siberia, China, Persia, Palestine, and India—in the latter widely distributed, in the former neat" the Cape of Grood Hope, in Egypt, Morocco, and no doubt in other districts also; so too in the Canaries. In many parts of England it has not unfrequently occurred. In Yorkshire, principally in the West Riding, near Barnsley and other places, and occasionally near York. It is described by John Hogg, Esq., in a paper communicated by him to the British Association, at its session at York, in the year 1844, and since published in the 'Zoologist,' as being a rare species and migratory in Cleveland. In the East-Riding, one was killed near Knapton by a boy, with a stick : it was at the time in the act of devouring a rook. Another was shot at Flamborough, December 21st., 1878. In Devonshire, it has been accustomed to build in Warleigh woods, and at Chagford and Lydford, where it has been known to breed ; in Essex, it has been met with near Epping; in Norfolk, it occurs as a summer visitor, but the specimens obtained are, according to John H. Gurney, Esq., and William R. Fisher, Esq., in their catalogue of the birds of Norfolk, published in the 'Zoologist,' far from numerous, and generally in immature plumage. The same gentlemen record that it occasionally breeds in that county, and that an instance of its doing so occurred, at Brixley, near Norwich, in the spring of 1844; and they mention that an immature specimen of the Hobby was shot some years since while sitting on a church tower, in the centre of the city of Norwich. The occurrence of this species at Yarmouth, so early as the month of February, is noticed at page 248 of the 'Zoologist.' It has once been met with in Durham. In the Isle of Wight it is, says the Rev. 0. Bury, in his catalogue of the birds of that island, occasionally seen, but he adds that he has not been able to ascertain that it has been known to breed there. An adult male was shot in the land-slip, in October, 1841, and a pair were killed some years previous, also in the autumn, in the heart of that island. In Kent it is recorded by J. Pemberton Bartlett, Esq., to be not uncommon. One was shot at Doddington, in 1840; and one at Cinder Hill, of which Mr. William Felkin, Junior, of Carrington, near Nottingham, has written me word. In Cornwall, one near Falmouth, was captured the 7th. of October, 1865, of which W. K. Bullmore, Esq., M.D., is my informant: also two others. In Sussex, it has occurred near Battle, Pevensey, Lewes, and Halnaker, in September, 1836, and in other parts of that county, also in Somersetshire, Wiltshire, and Northamptonshire. It is sufficiently common, according to the Rev. R. P. Alington, in the neighbourhood of Swinhope, Lincolnshire, and also on Manton Common has been met with, Mr. Alfred Roberts informs me; so, too, it has been in Derbyshire, Oxfordshire, at North Aston, Bodicote, and Bloxham, Lancashire, Dorsetshire, where it has built, as likewise at Cottenham, in Cambridgeshire. Cumberland as yet would seem to be its northern most range. It does not appear known in Scotland. P.S.—It is now recorded in Caithness, and is likewise stated to have been not unfrequently met with in various other parts of this portion of the kingdom, both on the mainland and in the Isles, as at Arran.
In Ireland it has occurred near Cork, and also in Tipperary.
' Unlike the Peregrine,' says A. E. Knox, Esq., 'it prefers the wooded district of the weald to the downs or the open country near the coast, being there a summer visitor. Yet even in these his favourite haunts, he must be considered scarce, and you will rarely discover his decaying form among the rows of defunct Hawks which garnish the gable end of the keeper's cottage—a sort of ornithological register, which would appear to indicate, with tolerable accuracy, the prevalence or scarcity of any species of raptorial bird in its immediate neighbourhood.
The courage and address of this Hawk are remarkable. When shooting with a friend a few years ago, during the early part of September, we observed a Hobby pursuing a partridge, which, having been wounded, was then in the act of ' towering.' The little fellow proved himself to be a true Falcon by the quickness with which he rose above his quarry in rapid circles, 'climbing to the mountee,' as our ancestors termed this manoeuvre, with all the ease of a Peregrine. Unfortunately, at this juncture the partridge became suddenly lifeless, as is the case with all towering birds, and fell to the ground; while the Hobby, apparently disdaining to accept a victim which he had not obtained by his own exertions, scudded away after a fresh covey.'
In Ireland, it is the opinion, much to be depended on, of William Thompson, Esq., of Belfast, that the few individuals of the Hobby recorded in former years as having occurred, have been males of the Peregrine. He gives only one specimen as having indubitably been met with, which was shot on his garden wall by — Parker, Esq., of Carrigrohan, about three or four miles from Cork up the beautiful river Lee. It by no means affects only the wilder districts, but is to be seen in such as are best cultivated, preferring, of course, those in which wood is plentiful.
It is said that the Hobby is in this country a summer visitor, appearing in April, and departing towards the end of October or beginning of November. It has however been seen in the month of December, in the pursuit of its game, so that it would appear, at all events, not to be universally a migratory bird, at least from this country: it may besides make partial migrations from one locality to another, as pleasure or necessity happens to direct. It has been kept throughout the winter without any difficulty by the Revs. A. and H. Matthews. It flies, like others of its tribe, till late in the evening, in pursuit of insects, etc.
The flight of this species is extremely rapid and easy, performed with little motion of the wings, and it continues for a long time together on the wing. It will sometimes 'tower' upwards in the most spirited manner after its prey. One has been seen to catch even a swift.
Its food consists of small birds, such as snipes, plovers, swallows, sandpipers, quails, and thrushes, and it would appear to be particularly partial to larks and buntings. It will even fly at the partridge, though a bird of so much greater bulk than itself. It also feeds very much on the larger coleopterous insects, such as cockchaffers, and on grasshoppers; the former it sometimes hawks after over ponds and streams until late in the evening. The male and female are said, according to Meyer, to hunt together, but sometimes to quarrel for what they have caught, and so to suffer their prey to escape from them.
The note is said to resemble that of the Wryneck.
The Hobby builds in the trees of woods and forests, generally among the topmost branches, but sometimes in a hole of a tree. In the former case, preference is given to isolated fir or other plantations, as affording at the same time a less likelihood of disturbance, a better view of approach from all sides, and a supply of the several kinds of food on which the bird lives. It has -also been known to build on the ledges of steep precipices or mountains. The same pair will return to their breeding place from year to year if not disturbed. The nest is built of sticks, and is lined with moss, hair, and other such material.
Occasionally the forsaken tenement of some other species of bird is made to serve the purpose of one of its own fabrication. It frequently avails itself of that of the carrion crow, or a magpie.
The eggs, which are laid about the first week in June, are two, three, or four, in number; some say that the former, and others, that the latter is the more frequent amount: they are of a rather short and oval shape, and of a dingy white, or bluish white ground-colour, much speckled all over with reddish or yellowish brown, or sometimes with olive green. Mr. Hewitson says that they are very much like some of those of the Kestrel, as well as those of the Merlin, but that they are larger than either, of a pinker hue, less suffused with colour, and marked with fewer of the small black dots which are scattered over the surface of the others.
The young remain for some time in the neighbourhood of the nest, until they have gradually learned to cater for themselves.
In general appearance, the Hobby resembles in some degree the Peregrine, at least on the back, for the breast is streaked instead of barred. It is also of a more slender shape—the wings are longer than the tail.
Male; weight, about seven ounces or half a pound; length, about one foot or thirteen inches; bill, black or bluish black, darkest at the tip, blue at the base; cere, yellow; iris, reddish brown or orange. The head, large, broad, and flat, of a dark slate-colour; crown, greyish black; neck, white on the sides, and brownish white or ferruginous on the middle part behind, a black streak or band running downwards from the angle of the bill; nape greyish black; chin and throat, white;breast, yellowish white, streaked with brown; back, dark slate-colour.
The wings, which expand to about two feet two inches, have the quills dusky black, with yellowish brown or ferruginous oval spots on the inner webs—the second quill is the longest in the wing; greater and lesser wing coverts, dark slate-colour. The tail, which consists of twelve feathers, and is as much as six inches long, and slightly rounded at the end, is dark brownish grey, the two middle feathers plain, the others transversely marked with reddish white or yellowish brown; under tail coverts, bright orange red or ferruginous, with dusky streaks. The legs, short, and feathered about a third down, the feathers on them deep rufous and streaked like the under tail coverts, but in extreme age these markings are said to wear off, and the ground-colour alone to remain. The toes, reticulated, and united at the base with short webs.
Female; weight, about nine ounces or upwards; length, thirteen or fourteen inches; bill, the same as in the male. The feathers of the head are margined with brown, which probably wears off with age; neck, white on the sides, brownish white or light ferruginous on the middle part behind; the band blackish brown; throat, white; back, dark greyish brown, the shafts being of a darker hue; breast, reddish white, streaked with dark brown, the streaks broader than in the male. The wings expand to about two feet four inches; the quills are brownish black, spotted on the inner webs with reddish white. The tail, greyish brown, faintly barred with a darker shade; under tail coverts, light yellowish red.
The young bird has the cere greenish yellow, of a very light shade, at first almost white; iris, dark brown or dusky; front of the head, yellowish grey, with a line of the same over the eyes; crown of the head and nape, greyish black; the feathers edged with yellowish white. The neck, white on the sides, and surrounded by a ring of yellowish white, which is indistinct behind; the band, black; chin, white; throat, yellowish white; breast, yellowish white, streaked with brownish black; back, greyish black, edged with dull white; quills of the wings as in the old birds; greater and lesser wing coverts, greyish black; primaries and secondaries, nearly black edged with dull white. The tail as in the female, but the bands are light red; the tip and the quills, reddish white; beneath, it is barred with dull white and greyish black; lower tail coverts, yellowish white with brown shafts. The legs, yellow; feathers of the legs yellowish white, with oblong brown spots; claws, black.

''Let the Hawk stoop, his prey has flown."

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