Merlin (Bird)

Merlin (Bird)

The Merlin which has the scientific name, Falco Columbarius, is another species of falcon from the Northern Hemisphere, having countless subspecies across Eurasia and North America, they are usually small in number.

Merlin is a raptor that was once known conversationally in North America, as a pigeon hawk. Its breeding zone is in Northern Holarctic; some even travel to northern tropical and subtropical zones during winter. The wings9an of the males ranges from 21 to 23inches, whereas that if the females are fairly large.

In-flight, Merlin is very quick fast and also hunts with great dexterity. Their common prey is mostly small birds like sorrow, quail, etc. Merlin has been seen as a falconry bird for centuries now.

For decades now, in North America, the population of Merlin has experienced a significant increase leading some Merlins to abandon their migration and adapting to city life.

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name: Falco Columbarius
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Falconidae
  • Genus: Falco
  • Species: F. columbarius


Merlin measures 9.4-13.0 inches in length, with a wingspan measuring 20-29 inches. Merlin is more strongly built, as compared to other small falcons.

The average weight of the males and females is 0.165kg and 0.23kg respectively. However, there is a moderate disparity across the range of Merlin, over the course of a year, especially in migratory populations.

The weight of adult male Merlin is estimated to be between 0 21 and 0.125kg whereas the females which are larger, weigh up to 0.19kg-0.3kg.

The wings measure 7.2-9.4inches each, the length of the tail is about 5.0-7.3inches, the tarsus is about 1.5inches. This kind of dimorphism in the sexes of birds of prey is usually common, allowing both the males and the females to hunt various prey and reduce the size of the territory required to feed a mated pair.

The back of the male Merlin is mixed with blue and grey colors. The belly of Merlin is tinted with orange color or polished. The female Merlin and those that are not yet mature are brownish greys, with a whitish polish with brown spots underneath.

The faint dark malar streak aside from a weak whitish supercilium is hardly recognizable both in the darkest birds and also in the palest of birds.

American males which are light, look like the American kestrel, though the back and tail of male Merlin are color with grey unlike the reddish-brown of the kestrel.

Light European males can be differentiated from kestrel through their wings which has brown as the main color.


Merlins dwell in countries such as birch scrub, shrub land, as well as taiga forest. They don’t have a specific habitat and can be located on sea-level and sometimes treeline.

They generally prefer vegetation with either low or medium height, with some trees. They usually make use of virtually any habitat.

Most of the population of Merlin usually migrate from one region to the other. Those from northern Europe migrate to Southern Europe and North Africa.

The Merlins begin to migrate to their breeding grounds during the fall of February, with the majority of them migrating through the United States, southern Russia, and Central Europe in March and April.

Speed and agility are the main weapons of Merlins during their hunt for prey. They usually carried out their hunting by flying fast and low, less than 3.3ft above the ground. It captures its prey by surprise using large shrubs and trees. Most of the merlin’s prey are captured in the air.

Merlins have also been observed to chase after trains and automobiles and also to prey on birds that have been captured lie those trapped by ornithologists.


Typical breeding in Merlin takes place in May/June. Merlin is not known to make a good nest for themselves, they usually make use of deserted corvid or those belonging to hawks which are always built on coniferous tree stands.

Particularly in moorland, in the UK, the female mostly builds a shallow scrape in heavy Heather to use as a nest.

 The eggs of Merlin are usually rusty brown in color, of about 1.57×1.24inches in size. The period of incubation last for about 28-32 days, performed to about 90% by the mother. Fledgling weigh about 0.013kg.

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