The Merlin is a little falcon (weighing just 129 to 236 grams and measuring up to 30 cm), about the size of a Jay. The female Merlin is about a third larger than males and are brown. The males have a gray/blue upper and a black and gray barred tail. Both the male and female have whitish streaked throats, and buff coloured under-body with brown streaks.

The Merlin likes to live in open woodlands, marshy areas and open countryside. The Merlin migrates to Alberta as one of their favoured breeding areas and can be seen along Alberta’s foothills during their migration, as they will go as far north as the Yukon and Alaska. For the winter months, the Merlin migrates to northern South America, although some have begun to over-winter in the city.

Photo by N. Sura

Fun Facts:

  • Sometimes the Merlin is called the “Pigeon Hawk” because when flying, it looks like a fast-flying domestic pigeon
  • A falcon is a raptor (hunting bird) that has thin pointed wings that let them fly very fast and change direction quickly.
  • The Merlin can easily fly at 50 kilometres per hour, and can fly even faster when hunting.
  • The Merlin has excellent hearing and eyesight and is a powerful flier.
  • The Merlin mostly hunts small to medium sized birds, such as songbirds, but it will also seek out small mammals (such as mice, voles, and bats), reptiles and insects (like dragonflies).
    • The Merlin will hunt other birds by surprise attack from a hidden perch, or from searching flights, attacking from below and tiring out their prey.
  • The Merlin has been observed hunting in pairs, working together to flush out and confuse their prey.
  • The Merlin is diurnal, so they hunt during the day.
  • The Merlin is usually a solitary, quiet bird but makes a shrill chatter sound when nesting.

If you find an injured Merlin or other wild animal in need, please contact the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society at 403-239-2488 or [email protected].