Merlin (Falco columbarius) - Wiki
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[Photo] Falco columbarius. This image comes from the book Naumann, Naturgeschichte der V??gel Mitteleuropas (Natural history of the birds of central Europe) of 1905.
The Merlin (Falco columbarius) is a falcon that breeds in northern North America, Europe and Asia.
In North America it was once known as the pigeon hawk, and its scientific name (from Latin columba, a dove) also refers to this popular prey item. However, the Merlin is a falcon, not a hawk, so the old American name is to be avoided.
This small bird of prey breeds in open country such as moorland, taiga or willow or birch scrub. Like the larger Peregrine Falcon, it is migratory, wintering in more temperate regions. Northern European birds move to southern Europe and North Africa, and North American populations to the southern USA and northern South America. In winter, the Merlin may be found in almost any open country, from coasts to prairies to desert scrub. In the mildest parts of its breeding range, such as Great Britain, it will desert higher ground and move to coasts and lowland.
In Europe, Merlins will roost communally in winter, often with Hen Harriers. In North America, communal roosting is rare, and Merlins are well known for attacking any birds of prey that they encounter, even eagles.
The male Merlin has a blue-grey back and orange-tinted underparts. The female and immature are dark brown above and whitish spotted with brown below. American subspecies range from pale (Great Plains) to nearly black (Pacific Northwest). This species' small size, darker underparts, and less strongly marked face distinguish it from the Peregrine Falcon.
Merlins rely on speed and agility to hunt their prey, which is mainly small birds such as larks and pipits and also large insects. They often hunt by flying fast and low, typically less than 1 metre above the ground, trying to take prey by surprise.
Merlins nest on the ground in most of their range. In the UK this is usually in a shallow scrape on heather moorland. They have a preference for long heather so are susceptible to over management, by burning.
In medieval Europe, Merlins were popular in falconry.
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