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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bird of Prey

(please click on the photos to enlarge)
Merlin Falco columbarius, Adult
Size: 24 - 30 cm (9 - 12 in.)
Notice the blue-gray beak with yellow
toward the head

This may be one of the Merlin fledglings, but I'm not positive.
You can just make out a bit of the white band on
the bird's tail.

We have a Merlin Falcon pair nesting in the nearby woods this year. A few evenings ago I happened to be outside when they were flying about and making quite a ruckus. We hear them most often in the morning and evening, and we have had to get used to their shrill vocalizations. We certainly know when they are around. On this particular evening they perched several times in the high branches of a tree, and I managed to get these photos.

I didn't know anything about these small falcons before their arrival this spring and had to do some research on them.

Some interesting facts:

  • also known as a Pigeon Hawk
  • migratory, wintering in more temperate climates
  • Merlin Falcons are very swift and agile in the air, catching their prey in flight
  • Adults are preyed upon by larger raptors (Goshawks, for instance)
  • They are very territorial, aggressively attacking eagles if need be
  • 80% of their diet consists of small birds up to the size of a Rock Dove (Pigeon)
  • They do not build their own nests but will use abandoned nests of crows, jays, magpies
  • used in falconry all the way back to medieval times
The Merlin Falcon Foundation has some excellent examples of their various calls that will give you an idea of what we are hearing. It's no wonder that the chickadees, sparrows, robins and other birds are very shy at the present time, remaining well hidden in the trees.