Cascades Raptor Center

Resident Raptor - Merlin


Ciaran  This adult male merlin was found injured in Hood River, Oregon, in late March 2011. He had a dislocated radius at the elbow, and a fractured ulna very close to the elbow, on the right wing. It proved impossible to maintain the radius in position as the ulna healed - leaving him unable to fly well. He probably hit a window or a wire while chasing a small bird, their typical prey. He is a 'black' merlin, of the Pacific Northwest subspecies sukleyi.    Adopt Ciaran

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Courtesy of Barbara Gleason Slightly larger than the American Kestrel, the Merlin is much more aggressive in behavior and more powerful in flight than its smaller falcon 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.



  Male Female
Length 9 - 11" 11 -1 2" 
Wing Span 21 - 23" 24 - 27"
Weight 4.5 - 6.6 oz. 6.4 - 8.3 oz.

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.

  ANCA Member

Cascades Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (Federal ID No. 93-1038827) dedicated to wildlife rescue and public education to enhance appreciation, respect, and stewardship of the natural world.


CRC logo art by Jeanne Hammond-Elliott.  Drawings by Barbara Gleason & Karl Edwards.  Photographic sources noted as provided.