Merlin, the falcon

A Merlin brought in by falconer Hesper Fang to be banded at Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

No, not the 6th century magician… nor the 70’s Rolls-Royce car… and no, not the famed British fighter plan engine from WWII… although very powerful, sleek, and can fly… the Merlin, falco columbarius, is our second smallest falcon in the US and Canada.  They weigh in at less than a soda can, and have a wingspan from 15.5 to 29.5 inches, the female being larger than males (as in most raptors). There are two subspecies, the Taiga, which is darker, and the Richardson, which is lighter in color.  

Merlin, the bird, are now on their way north to summer and breed mostly in Canada and Alaska. They spend the summer generally in open to semi-open habitats with some scattered trees for nest sites, often near forested edges or lakes and other open water.  There, they use the open space to hunt. Merlin are a most awesome flyer, and fly as with a purpose…always fast and powerful.  They don’t mess around, and often keep a leisurely cruising speed of 30mph, and much higher while hunting!  Whether they are actually in a hurry or not… they seem to be.  

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