Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Merlin Arrived Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon we heard a thump on the living room window. On the ground was this beautiful falcon.  Yes, these critters are often called pigeon hawks, but they are actually falcons.

Judy, my bird whisperer, quickly scooped the raptor up in a soft towel and checked the beast out to see if he was OK.  No injuries were evident.

This bird was a male.  The adult male is dark slate-blue above  (females and juveniles are brown), streaked with black on the back, and the underneath is streaked with brown.  The tail is banded. 

Here are a few facts on the Merlin.
  • Merlins belong to the family Falconidae, a group of 60 species of caracaras, falconets, pygmy falcons, forest-falcons, and falcons.
  • Merlins were once known as pigeon hawks because their flight resembles that of pigeons (Columbiformes).
  • In medieval falconry, Merlins were used by ladies. Both Catherine the Great of Russia and Mary Queen of Scots flew Merlins.
  • Merlins have slightly larger wingspans than American Kestrels, and weigh up to three times as much as kestrels.
  • In North America, juvenile Merlins occasionally migrate in loose flocks, sometimes together with Sharp-shinned Hawks.
  • Each Merlin eats as many as 900 birds a year.
  • Few Merlins live to be five years or more, in part because they often collide with cars, buildings, and trees.
  • Merlins sometimes feed on birds such as pigeons, which are twice their size.
  • Larger raptors sometimes prey on Merlins.
  • The number of Merlins living in urban areas has increased substantially in the last 30 years.

Below you can see the typical banded tail of the Merlin.

We are so happy that this bird quickly recovered and flew away without any signs of injury.

OK - With all this being said, our friend Greg Park said that he believes it is an immature sharp shinned hawk.  I am consulting with our resident expert and will let you know.


Blogger Melissa Gish said...

What an exciting event! The pictures are great!

11:18 AM  

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