Hobbies breed across Eurasia, north to the Arctic Circle, south to North Africa, central Israel and the northern fringes of the Indian sub-continent, and from Iberia and Great Britain in the west to Kamchatka, north Japan and China in the east. Most of the western population winter in southern Africa while those in the east move to a zone extending from Pakistan to south China.
    In Great Britain in the mid 20th century there were thought to be no more than 60-90 breeding pairs, restricted to seven counties in southern England. By the 1970s their range had expanded to take in an area in the south extending from Cornwall to Kent and spreading north to the Severn-Wash line. By the time of the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas they had reached as far north as north Yorkshire and Tyne & Wear while Bird Atlas 2007-2011 recorded them breeding in Northumberland and in an isolated area in the Scottish Highlands. Bird Atlas 2007-2011 also recorded estimates of a breeding population of between 993 and 2200 pairs. The reasons for the expansions in both range and population are not clear but are thought to be linked to increased availability of their dragonfly prey and possibly to the effects of climate change.
    In Wiltshire in the 19th century Hobbies were generally regarded as uncommon but regular summer visitors, a situation which continued well into the latter half of the 20th century. It was only when the national numbers began to increase from about 1975 onwards that numbers in the county also began to increase, from an annual average of 21 pairs in the 1980s to 33 pairs in the 1990s. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them in 187 tetrads, with breeding probable or confirmed in 31 of them. WTA2 treated their breeding evidence as confidential, though Bird Atlas 2007-2011 showed them as being present in the breeding season in every 10km square, with breeding confirmed in about two-thirds of them.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.