Merlin Falco columbarius   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Accipitriformes Family: Falconidae
BTO Codes: ML, MERLI EURING No: 3090
Number in Britain: 1100 Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Subspecies: aesalon, subaesalon (W) recorded in Britain (of 9 subsp. in the world)
Length: 28 cm Wingspan: 56 cm Weight: M: 180 g   F: 230 g    
Scientific name from: L.: falco=falcom (from falcis=sickle, ref hooked talons) and L.: columba=a pigeon or dove + -arius=pertaining to
World Distribution: BREEDS: n Eurasia, Canada & n US, WINTERS: south to n Africa, se Asia, n South America
Habitat: Moor, heath, desert, open coniferous forest
Diet: Mostly small birds, caught in open country, usually by pursuit low over ground
TitBit: The Merlin was a popular falconers bird, particularly for ladies on account of its small size; it was still used into the 20th Century for lark-hawking.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: No regional trends available
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Summer: 1100 Pairs in 2008
    First Record: Recorded in Medieval times [Fossil evidence from Devensian (last) glaciation, 10-120,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Ewing, S. et al. (2011) Bird Study 58:379-389
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Recovery from Historical Decline,
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 RED  
   Races of Concern: aesalon AMBER (Historical Decline), subaesalon AMBER (European Concern)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: 11 to 19 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WCA(I,IV), WBD(I), Bern(III), Bonn(II), CITES(II)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 41 x 31 mm Egg Weight: 22.0 g (of which 8 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 155
Clutch Size: 4 - 5 eggs 4.19 ± 0.71 (2 - 7) N = 1320
Incubation: 30 days 30.00 ± 0.92 (28 - 32) N = 1320   by the: Female (occ. Male)
Fledging: 28 - 31days 28.87 ± 2.54 (24 - 32.5) N = 1787 as: Altricial, downy
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Nest Record Scheme data
First Clutches Laid: 6 May (27 Apr - 29 May)
Number of Broods: 1
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.620 ± 0.110       
Juvenile Survival: 0.230 (in First-Year)  
Age at First Breeding: 1 year Typical Lifespan: 3 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 12 years 8 months 17 days (set in 1989)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: D (males) E (females)
Wing Length Adult: 221.6 ± 12.3 Range 198 - 236.5 mm, N =20
Juvenile: 218.5 ± 15.4 204 - 235 mm, N =41
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
Weight Adult: 229.3 ± 56.27 Range 148.0 - 342.5 g , N =20
Juvenile: 202.4 ± 34.02 144.0 - 255.0 g , N =39
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Gaelic: Mčirneal Welsh: Cudyll Bach
Danish: Dvćrgfalk Dutch: Smelleken
Finnish: Ampuhaukka French: Faucon émerillon
German: Merlin Hungarian: Kis sólyom
Icelandic: Smyrill Irish: Meirliún
Italian: Smeriglio Norwegian: Dverfalk
Polish: Drzemlik Portuguese: Esmerilhăo
Spanish: Esmerejón Swedish: Stenfalk
Local Names: Stone Falcon

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Wright, P.M. 2005 Merlins of the south-east Yorkshire Dales Tarnmoor Publications, Skipton [598.53 WRI]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides
All About Birds (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)