An encounter with an Australian Hobby

A few days ago I was visiting our local Post Office near the centre of the Murray Bridge CBD.  I was there to post a few Christmas letters.

As I parked the car I was aware of the call of a bird of prey somewhere nearby.

Within seconds I had no less than three Australian Hobbies soaring around overhead. The Australian Hobby is also known as the Little Falcon.  One flew off while the other two perched on power lines nearby, one only about forty metres away. I quickly whipped out my binoculars for a better look. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me.

I’ve observed these birds on many occasions in and near the CBD of our town. One day I need to take the camera with me and track them down until I manage a good photo or two.  As I watched two of the birds appeared to be begging for food, which indicates they could be juveniles. As I watched one soaring near the railway station and House Sparrow flew past and the Hobby took off after it at speed. Its acceleration was amazing, but its tactical flying skills still need some refinement as it missed its prey.

It was great to see such magnificent hunters right in the middle of the city.

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A Starling in a hurry

Common Starling

Common Starling

Common Starlings are not my favourite birds.

In fact, here in Australia they are considered a pest, especially by fruit growers and people who have a few fruit trees in their back yard. A small flock can completely ruin a crop of apricots in a few hours, for example.

There is a wider environmental issue to also consider. Common Starlings are often found in flocks of hundreds and even number in the tens of thousands in fruit growing areas. Large flocks like this feed on the crops when they are ripe; for the rest of the year they are seriously depleting food sources of many of our native species. Even worse is the fact that they use tree hollows for their nests, thus denying native birds precious nesting sites. They are also very messy in their nesting habits, fouling the hollows to the point where only Starlings will reuse the hollow.

Last night I was at an outdoor function being conducted by our church. We hold this event on Sunday evenings every year in January  in the town sound shell. Despite the very loudly amplified music the birding was spectacular. Not many species flew over, mind you, but one incident involving a Common Starling really caught my attention.

Two Australian Hobbies (Little Falcons) live around the CBD and I’ve seen them soaring around the area on a number of occasions. One of them zoomed past the sound shell at great speed heading for some trees in the park opposite. It did a few loops around a tall pine tree disturbing a Common Starling in the process which sped of in the opposite direction, hotly pursued by the falcon. Both disappeared behind a building. I hope that the falcon caught his supper.

Nature in the raw

On our daily early morning walks I usually take a keen interest in the birds seen and heard. Normally I see or hear only the most common birds around this area. On Friday, however, I was delighted to observe an Australian Hobby (also called  Little Falcon) sitting on a dead branch atop a mallee tree on the side of the road we were walking on. It stayed sitting there watching us as we passed by, giving us very good views of its markings.

This morning the same bird (I presume) was sitting on the same branch. As we approached it zoomed off low through the roadside trees and began pursuing a Common Starling. I lost sight of the chase as they headed towards a nearby scrub. I hope that the falcon caught his breakfast. Common Starlings are an introduced feral bird here in Australia. They are also a pest species, taking food and nesting sites from our native species. Most people do not like them as they do great damage to fruit crops.

The Australian Hobby is widespread but not all that common in this area. It is therefore always good to see this magnificent species.