Falco columbarius
(Merlin)


Order: Falconiformes
Order Description: Vultures, Osprey, Hawks, Falcons
Family: Falconidae
Family Description: Falcons

Physical Description:
10-13 1/2" (25-34 cm). Color varies from dusky brown to light or dark gray. Head may be contrasting color of brown on a gray bird. Streaking on head; lighter below with dark streaks. Several buffyClick word for definition bands cross the tail. Some have eyebrow stripe and/or mustache.

Similar Species- Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel

Song:
High pitched, repeated pwee-pwee-pwee, that accelerates.

Distribution:
Breeds from north westerm Alaska, northern Yukon, northern Manitoba, and Labrador south to northern Michigan, northwest Nebraska, northern Montana, rarely in northern and eastern Idaho, eastern Oregon, and central Washington. They winter in southern portions of this range and southward.

Habitat:
They bree in both deciduous and coniferous forests, frequently near water, where they rely on old corvid nests (i.e., ravens crows, and magpies). They recently extended their breeding into some cites, such as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In Idaho they are very rare, but are thought to use riparian habitat along streams or lakes.

Diet:
Mostly small birds up to magpie in size, which they capture on the wing. They also hunt blackbirds, and House Sparrows.

Ecology:
As in most bird eating raptors, their density is usually low. Their hunting techniques are varied, from suprise attacks off hidden perches to breath-taking vertical dives. They fly so quickly that they easily overtake their prey, sometimes coming from underneath a flock and taking a bird going up.

Reproduction:
The normal clutchClick word for definition size is between 4 and 5 eggs, whcih are laid at two day intervals. The female dose most of the incubation, except when the male has brought in food. They begin breeding at about two years and the oldest known breeder was six years.

Conservation:
Element Code: ABNKD06030
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1
National Rank: N4B,N4N

Important State References:
No references are available at this time.


Original images provided by Jeff Spendelow,© 1999
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.