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Merlin Falco columbarius


The Merlin is a small, holarctic falcon that occurs in the Neotropics only as a migrant and winter visitor from the United States and Canada. It can be found from Mexico south to northwestern Peru and the Guianas and throughout the Caribbean. Slate gray above, the male has heavily-mottled underparts, a dark vertical line below the eye, a narrow pale superciliary, and a gray-and-black banded tail. The female and juvenile are similar but with the gray color replaced by brown. The Merlin occurs in a variety of habitats, generally with some combination of trees or shrubs and open areas, and often near water. It feeds primarily on small birds, but also takes arthropods (mostly aerial), bats, and small rodents. Most hunting is done from a perch, but capture of prey may involve an acrobatic aerial pursuit. Populations of the Merlin appear to be increasing following the decrease in use of chlorinated hydrocarbons ,and apparent habituation by Merlins to human-altered landscapes.

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© George B. Reynard

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Merlin (Falco columbarius), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: