Peregrine or hobby?

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Samantha's picture
Peregrine or hobby?

Hi all,

I know from having searched this forum that I'm not the first person here to ask for help in differentiating a peregrine from a hobby, so I thank the more knowledgeable members for assuring the newbies that there's no such thing as a stupid question.

Anyway, I was pottering outside recently (I live in central west NSW) when I suddenly heard a whooping noise of rushing air that seemed so loud and so close that it actually made me flinch and duck, thinking (for a moment) that I was under attack by something a lot scarier than a magpie. Soon enough I realised that what I'd heard was a bird of prey attacking (and killing, as it turned out) a red wattlebird, about 10 or 15 metres away from me.

For several seconds, I stood staring at the bird standing over its kill like a stunned mullet (I mean *I* was like a stunned mullet, not the bird). I didn't notice much that was useful, except that I got the impression that the bird seemed remarkably tall, and had brightly coloured legs (its legs looked bright orangey-yellow to me).

Anyway, I guess I scared the bird more than it had scared me, because it flew away without its catch, at which point I ran inside for my video camera. I caught the attached images (which are unfortunately dark and blurry), and later deduced that the bird was either a peregrine falcon, or a hobby. But which? I assume that the difference is obvious to the more experienced spotters, but I've looked and looked at Google images, and I simply can't tell.

I've read that "The Peregrine Falcon is often mistaken for the related Australian Hobby, F. longipennis. However, this species has a different flight silhouette, with a curved trailing wing-edge, and lacks the full black hood."

But the "curved trailing wing-edge" comment doesn't help me at all, because the bird I saw seems to have either a straight or curved wing-edge, depending on where its flap is at.

Thanks in advance for your help and patience!

Lachlan's picture

I'd say you were right, and it's a Peregrine Falcon, but I certainly could be wrong. 

It seems to have a pretty substantial white 'bib' (the Hobby also has a white bib, but it is smaller and less pronounced), and looks like a solid bird- 

I think by flight silhouette it means that when soaring the Hobbys wing taper back more when soaring. Pictures 1 + 2 look like the diagram of a Peregrine Falcon in flight in my field guide; you can see a curve in the wings. 

Hope this helps!

rawshorty's picture

From what you say i would also lead towards Peregrine. Since you got a close look perhaps you may have noticed the eye surround. In Peregrine it is yellow and Hobby it is grey. Also the Hobby has long trousers not showing much leg and is quite a small raptor.

Here are a couple of pics showing detail of the Hobby and size comparison with a Crested Pigeon.

Australian Hobby-8365 by rawshorty, on Flickr">Australian Hobby-8365 by rawshorty, on Flickr


Australian Hobby-8402 by rawshorty, on Flickr">[/url] Australian Hobby-8402 by rawshorty, on Flickr

Shorty......Canon gear


Samantha's picture

Thanks for your input guys - much appreciated.

Awesome pics Rawshorty!

I so wish I'd managed to notice more during my stupefied stare at the bird in question. I was probably close enough to see the eye surround, but simply didn't notice.

The bird I saw seemed, perhaps, larger than the hobby in your pics - but then, the one that got away is always monumental, isn't it?  ;-)

Talking of size differences between birds reminds me of a nesting magpie that I recently saw shooing away a wedge-tailed eagle. Again, poor quality pics unfortunately, but the size difference between the birds is just incredible.

ihewman's picture

The first thing to notice about a Peregrine Falcon is that the black hood is "cleaner" and more defined... also, in a hobby, the black only seems to be on the side of the face as apposed to the Peregrine which goes around the back of the neck. A Peregrine has horizontal bars, whereas the hobby has vertical streaks, on the underside (this is always the case, even as races vary). The Peregrine also has a relatively large head, as well as the yellow eye ring.

I'd say it's a Peregrine.

Brandon (aka ihewman)

Samantha's picture

Thanks Brandon.

So: Peregrine 3, Hobby nil. That seems pretty decisive.

Thanks again guys, and thanks for the various ID pointers - I have a much better idea of what to look for next time.

zosterops's picture

Peregrine for sure. 

Canonguy's picture


The best way to tell the Peregrine is the heavy body shape. It looks like a small barrell and the broad, heavy wings. Even in the first shot, I clearly see the dark hood and white neck area, which is Peregrine. I bet if you look at the original file on your screen, you may even see it has yellow feet and cere. Both those are Peregrine ID features. In fact, when I click the first image, I can just about tell the cere is YELLOW with 99.999999% confidence.

Here is an Australian Hobby (I prefer to call them Little Falcons, as they're little) in flight. See how narrow the wings are compared to your last shot with those broad wings.

Another thing is that Peregrines have black or dark grey markings rather than brown in a Hobby. Forgot the yellow around the eyes. Here are a couple of Peregrines in flight for comparison.

zosterops's picture

Be very careful when using the yellow cere/eye ring colour as an identifying feature; juvenile Peregrines do not have this and it looks bluish grey like a Hobby. 

Canonguy's picture

That is correct. Her bird is an adult though. But you are correct. Juveniles would be harder to tell apart

zosterops's picture

Quite right. I should have specified 'as a general rule'. 


Just to add to the discussion, I find a good field mark to separate the two is the breast/underside.
A Hobby has a much richer rustier underside, whereas the Peregrine has more of a white throat with a white underside barred black.

zosterops's picture

Their habits are a bit different too, hobbies are extremely fast fliers in hortizontal flight and have stunning manoeuvrability, capable of taking dragonflies, swallows and swifts in flight. They commonly chase small birds in direct pursuit and often feed on the wing. A lot of their diet is insects (though they occasionally take medium sized birds- i saw one take a crested pigeon, as also seen above-). They have a different flight silouette, resembling a large swift. 

Peregrines soar a lot more on broad wings, riding the thermals and often hunting via the famous stoop, gaining altitude before dropping out of the sky at incredible speed like a missile onto pigeons, galahs etc.

Both these birds are quite thrilling to watch in action. 

Samantha's picture

Hi everyone, it's a long time since I've posted in the forum, but I thought I'd revive this thread (since it has so many useful tips and observations in it) to share an experience that I had yesterday, at twilight, just a few metres from where my first sighting happened (as mentioned in my original post above).

This time, the Peregrine caught a Peewee for dinner, and stayed to eat for almost 20 minutes. Since I last posted, I've added a Canon EOS 7D with a 300mm lens to my toolbox, so I got some marginally better pics than last time, although this time I was about 50 metres away from the action, and the ISO was cranked way up high, because it was getting dark.

This is the 3rd time I've seen a Peregrine make its kill, and it apparently never gets any less electrifying to witness.

HelloBirdy's picture

Great observation. 

Aiming for DSLR-quality shots with a bridge camera


Thats a great sighting of peregrine falcon with its kill. 

Thanks for reviving this one as I just got some long range photos of a soaring raptor from weekend and suspect it is a PF, so very timely to see this thread appear.

Samantha's picture

Thanks Ryu :-)

And I did hope someone would find this thread useful, WD!

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