(Falco columbarius)

Order:  Falconiformes
Family:  Falconidae

Photo by PrairieBoy [CC BY 2.0]

Merlin Information

Length:  10 - 14"

Habitat:  In the Northeast, breeds in coniferous forests near open country, along forest edges, and occasionally in urban areas. Winters mainly along the coast.

Diet:  Mostly small birds; some small mammals such as mice, squirrels, and bats; large insects, snakes, lizards.

  Calls of the Merlin

Additional Information

Merlin (Falco columbarius)
Information on the habitat, diet, feeding behavior, nesting, migration and conservation status of this falcon. Includes range map, photos, and the calls of this bird. (From Audubon Field Guide)

Female or Immature Merlin

Female or Immature Merlin

Photo by Cephas [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Identification Tips

  • Wingspan: 23 inches
  • Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Small, long-tailed hawk
  • Long, pointed wings, broad at the base
  • Thin, pale black mustache mark
  • Underwings checkered with black and white
  • Juveniles and immature females like adult female
  • Three distinct races occur in North America

Taiga Merlin (F. c. columbarius)

  • Breeds in northern Canadian boreal forests from Newfoundland to Alaska and winters in the southern United States; migrants occur frequently along both coasts but are rare inland
  • Flight feathers dark above
  • Faint dark mustache mark
Adult male (Taiga)
  • Dark blue-gray back, paler than suckleyi but darker than richardsoni
  • Dark tail has wide, complete, blue-gray bands
Adult Female (Taiga)
  • Dark, brownish back
  • Brown tail has narrow, complete buffy bands

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Breeding Bird Survey Map,

(Image credit: USGS)

Range Maps from Cornell

Merlin breeding, migration, nonbreeding and year-round range

Includes separate map of sightings.

Merlin Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS