Merlin Falcon Red-Tailed Hawk Wolves Ravens Raptors Rehab Refuge
Merlin

I would be a falcon and go free. I tread her wrist and wear the hood, Talking to myself, and would draw blood.
William Dunbar, My Mother Would Be a Falconress

Merlin - female
Merlin, female, right, by Kevin McKenzie


Merlin
Falco columbarius
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Falco

The Merlin, or “Pigeon Hawk”, is a smaller stockier member of the falcon family, slightly larger than the kestrel or “Sparrow Hawk”, with males about 5.5 ounces, and females about 8 ounces, with a wing span of about two feet. Merlins usually Summer in Canada and the northern US, and their Winter range reaches from the Western US down to Mexico, and the northeastern rim of South America. Though Merlins are not common anywhere, and even more uncommon in the Adirondacks, we’ve saw three in 2009, two during the nesting and rearing season.

  Merlins are also found in Europe and Asia. In Europe they were used extensively in falconry, and were considered suitable for “lady” falconers.

  Merlins are generally monogamous, and breed in open country, often taking over abandoned hawk and crow nests. Those males who migrate return to their breeding grounds before the females, and then defend the chosen nest site and surrounding area vigorously against other males, and small raptors generally. Ironically, this sets up a kind of safety zone for the small song birds the Merlin preys upon, since the presence of the Merlin discourages other raptors from taking up residence, and if the Merlin chooses an old crows nest, for example, in a tree at the edge of a wooded area, odds are he'll be hunting in a more open, shrubby area. Not hunting in your nesting area, is also a security tactic, because it reduces the chances that the raptor will be observed by predators around the area of the nest.

    The female returns and lays up to six eggs over two day intervals, any time from early April to June, depending on how far north the Merlin's territory is. The eggs hatch at interval within the 25 to 32 days of incubation, mainly by the female, but with occasional help from the male. The male  generally avoids the nest, leaving food for the female within her range of sight.  Fledglings  are catching insects within 2 weeks, and small songbirds within 6 weeks.

  They prey chiefly on small birds, such as sparrows, finches and swallows, which they surprise and grab while flying swiftly just above ground level, continuing right through at the same speed if the quarry is missed. A pair of breeding merlins may work as a team, with the lead merlin flushing the prey, and the second merlin seizing it in midair. Insects, such as dragonflies make up about a sixth of their prey, while small rodents and snakes are less frequent targets. Merlins are clever and aggressive, and often hunt like sharp shinned and Cooper's hawks, making sneak attacks around and near tree trunks. Merlins have been observed shadowing farm tillers, sharp shinned hawks, or other sources which may flush small birds. Merlins will also grab flying insects, small mammals and reptiles.

Steve

WEndy treats injured Merlin
Wendy treats injured Merlin
Photo by Steve Hall

Merlin RangeMerlin by Jon Van Erve
Merlin with song bird, photographed at Trout Landing Cottage, by Jon Van Erve

Merlin Falcon Foundation
An excellent Merlin educational site
"Cinammon" with Jonas
Cinammon with Jonas
"Cinammon", a Merlin, with Jonas Borkholder, Volunteer & Sub-permittee
by Meghan
CinammonCinammon
Cinammon
by Wendy



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Adirondack Wildlife Refuge
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehabilitation Center

Steve & Wendy Hall
PO Box 555, 977 Springfield Road, Wilmington, NY 12997
Toll Free: 855-Wolf-Man (855-965-3626)
Cell Phones: 914-715-7620 or 914-772-5983
Office Phone: 518-946-2428
Fax: 518-536-9015
Email us: info@AdirondackWildlife.org