Resident Raptor - Merlin
Ajkataku & Ciaran
Ajkataku The smaller bird with a gray
back (a male) hit a window at a Valley River Center office building in
October 1997 as a 'passage' or juvenile bird on his first migration. He is
blind in the right eye.
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Slightly larger than the American Kestrel, the Merlin is much more
aggressive in behavior and more powerful in flight than its smaller
cousin. Females are larger, as with most birds of prey. Plumage
differs between the sexes: adult males are gray-blue above, females are dark
brown. Under parts are a pale rufous-red, with dark brown streaks and spots. Legs are yellow; the wings are short, pointed, and angular; the tail is dark
with many thin whitish bands; the head has a dark crown, and a much fainter
mustache mark than seen on other falcons. In flight, the Merlin can be
distinguished from the American Kestrel by its darker underparts and longer,
broader wing shape; the barred tail of the Merlin distinguishes it in flight
from its larger falcon relatives, the Prairie and Peregrine Falcons. Merlins tend to fly rapidly in a direct line from one spot to another with
short, fast, continuous wing beats. These feisty birds will aggressively
harass other raptors who come into their territory.
Status - State and federally protected
Habitat - Prefer edge environments with scattered trees for perches and open terrain for hunting birds and insects on the wing. Habitats vary regionally, from mixed grassland and deciduous trees, to coniferous forests with open meadows or burns - wherever enough perches and a good food supply exist.
Diet - Birds form the majority of the diet. This falcon catches birds in flight with bursts of speed and rapid maneuvers. Usually hunts from a perch, taking off after spotting a potential meal, often flying low and in direct pursuit of prey. Also eats rodents, lizards, snakes, and insects - especially dragonflies.
Call - This falcon is usually quiet. When alarmed, will give a strident, rapidly accelerating series of twitwitwitwitititititi, rising and falling.
Nesting - Appropriates the nests of other species, or nests in tree hollows in areas where there are scattered trees or open woodland. Will also nest on bare cliff ledges, or on the ground in a scraped-out depression.
Most Common Problems - Collisions with vehicles.