Saturday, May 30, 2009

Camera Critters: Merlin

The merlin is one of the smallest members of the falcon family that can be found in North America. Only the American kestrel is smaller with an approximate length of 9 inches and a wingspan of 22 inches compared to the merlin which is around 10 inches long with a 24 inch wingspan.
Like all members of the falcon family the merlin has pointed angular wings which help them to fly faster. They also have long thin toes which are helpful for grabbing prey that is in the air, and a tomial tooth, which is the small triangular shape that you can see midway up the beak in the picture below. The tomial tooth is used slice through the neck of a prey bird or animal and sever the spinal cord.
The merlin is sometimes called a pigeon hawk. This may have something to do with its hunting style. When on the hunt the merlin will often fly slowly behind its prey, giving the appearance that it is a pigeon or other slow bird, then when it is close it darts in and catches the unsuspecting prey.
Most merlins travel up to Canada, Alaska or some of the northern states to breed each spring. They prefer to breed in open country. Instead of building a nest of their own the merlin will use the nest of another raptor, a crow or other larger nesting bird. When the breeding season is over each bird will go its separate way, choosing a new mate during the next breeding season.
This merlin was captured last fall at one of the banding stations at Hawk Ridge. In the fall the merlin migrate to the southern and coastal regions of the US as well as Mexico, Central America and the northern portion of South America. I adopted this merlin which you can tell is probably a female because it is mostly brown in color. Males are more of a blue gray color.

10 comments:

sixstars said...

Nice photos ot the Kestral and interesting story. I have seen Hawks and Eagles and Falcons but never a Kestral so its good to see on your blog.

Gaelyn said...

This little Merlin sure packs a punch for its size. Great photos and posts.

Russ said...

Beautiful!

Carol said...

Such a handsome bird.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

Amanda Guthrie said...

I have never seen a Merlin, it is quite small but your usual skill with the camera captured her wonderfully!

Vicki ~ FL said...

Magnificent photos... beautiful bird...

Karen said...

Amazing shots of the merlin...

I don't think I have ever seen one of those before..

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Such beautiful detail in your photos!

Janie said...

What beautiful photos of of the merlin. Great info, too.

storyteller said...

Wonderful critter post this week!
Hugs and blessings,