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This species has long, pointed wings and a medium-length tail, with a square cut (1). The species is often seen flying low and swiftly over reedbeds and marshes. During the chase, the wings are spaced and clip as they move. The adult appears to have red “trousers,” something that marks it out from the juvenile form (2). When high in the sky it can be mistaken for a Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus (2).
This species will often breed in nests in aggregations of trees or in more open woodland (2). It also breeds close to arable land, and in mountain forests (1). In the northern extremes of its range, F. subbuteo will also nest in taiga (boreal or northern coniferous forest) (1).
Within Greece, the species is found in the northern and central portions of the mainland, as well as in the Peloponnese, and in the Aegean and Ionian Seas (3; 4). It is a summer visitor, mostly from April or May until September (1). The overall abundance and extent of the species through the Greek islands is unknown (3). There are records of pairs on Lesvos, Skiathos and Paxoi (4). Occasionally stops over on Crete (3; 4).
F. subbuteo is a summer visitor to Europe (1). It overwinters in sub-saharan Africa (1), south of the Equator (2). Up to ten thousand individuals are thought to spend the winter in China, Japan and Russia (5).
The diet consists mostly of birds, but F. subbuteo will also take insects (4). Small birds such as swallows are often targeted whilst young falcons are still in the nest (4).
Worldwide, the species has been classified as being of Least Concern (6). There have been no recent documented breeding records for F. subbuteo on the Greek islands (3; 4). Although, there are occasional pairs which have been located on disparate islands in both the Aegean and Ionian Seas (4). This lack of knowledge surrounding the bird’s distribution may be one threat to its continued survival in the region. The total breeding population throughout the entirety of the country of Greece is thought to be between five hundred and one thousand breeding pairs. The species is understood to be declining in certain locales (7), however it is currently classified as being of ‘Least Concern’ by the International Conservation Union (IUCN) (6).
Description written by M. J. Rowen (2013)
(1) Mullarney K., Svensson L., Zetterstrom D., Grant P. J., 1999, Collins Bird Guide: The most complete field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(2) Jonsson L., 2003, Birds of Europe, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(3) Handrinos G., Akriotis T., 1997, The Birds of Greece, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(4) Global Raptor Information Network, 2013, Species Account: Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo, [Online] Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on August 23rd, 2013.
(5) Brazil M., 2009, Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and eastern Russia, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(6) Birdlife International, 2012, Falco subbuteo, in: IUCN 2013, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2013.1 [Online] Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003610/0, Accessed 23/ 08/ 2013
(7) del Hoyo J., Elliott A., Sargatal J. (Eds.), 1992 – 1997, Handbook to the Birds of the World, Vols. 1-4, Lynx: Barcelona, Spain