Merlin Falcon

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Birds Of Prey, Pacific Northwest

The Merlin Falcon often prey on small to medium size birds, swooping down from above and grabbing the unsuspecting bird in flight.
Merlin Falcon, BC Coastal Region, Photo By Bud Logan

The Merlin Falcon often prey on small to medium size birds, swooping down from above and grabbing the unsuspecting bird in flight. The song sparrow is the Merlin’s prey of choice. Merlin’s can be seen on most parts of the coastal region but they are an uncommon bird.

They are a small bird measuring just 35 cm with a wing span of 60 cm, but like all the other falcons, they have large heads, sharp beaks and they can fly very fast.

Its chest and belly are a buff color with dark brown streaks. Its back, wings, tail, and crown are a light blue gray. Its tail is narrow and banded and the wings are pointed. Its legs and feet are yellow but its talons are black. The Merlin has been called the pigeon hawk because it looks like a pigeon when in flight. The female Merlin is similar in size to the male, but its wings and back are brown rather than blue gray.

The Merlin can be found throughout the whole coast but they are not a common sight in any particular area. A breeding pair needs a large territory in which to hunt and they are very territorial.

During the breeding season they inhabit the coniferous forests, but throughout the remainder of the year, they prefer open areas. They are a migratory bird and will move southward when the weather cools. As with most falcons, the Merlin’s falcon’s courtship rituals include fancy flying and increased vocalization. Once mated, a nest site is chosen. The nest can be in a tree or a crevice high on a cliff. They will often use abandoned nests of other raptors.

The Merlin feeds primarily on small to medium size birds, but they will also hunt bats, insects, mice, and other rodents. They often swoop down from a perch snatching their prey before the danger has even registered to them.

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