Merlin Winter Prey

As Merlin sits in the pre-dawn conifer tree, it may be stretching, preening or casting up a pellet from yesterday’s late afternoon feeding. Taking flight, she or he heads to a favorite prominent perch or continues in transit to survey the hunting options. Actively looking it sees foraging, flying and perching birds around the compass rose.

During the winter migrant songbirds from the south are largely missing and so this falcon must concentrate on the remaining small to medium-sized resident birds. These will be augmented by those species that have migrated south from the boreal forest or tundra. In urban cities, residential areas and at bird feeders the most abundant and available birds are House Sparrows, House Finches, Eurasian Starlings, Pine Siskins, Song Sparrows and Rock Pigeons, to name a few. In rural places such as fields, marshes, water edges, mudflats and farmsteads Merlin may capture Dark-eyed Juncos, Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings and shorebirds such as Dunlin, and others.

After finding Merlin sitting or flying on a potential (or happening) hunt, watch carefully as it maneuvers after and under its fleeing prey . This acrobatic, sizzling arrow will attempt to seize from the sky its next meal. How exciting can birding get, you ask? Its uncommon to witness the whole Merlin hunt, but if you do, it will forever be etched on your mindscape!

Avian Photo-Periodicity

Bird activity level and species present at a given latitude are affected by light levels or what is called photo-periodicity. The current light levels of autumn are similar to spring light levels, and as a result, Merlinsoverwintering in breeding territories are actively courting. You can hear them emphatically “chittering” their call (like Douglas Squirrels) in conifer tree tops close to their activity trees. The male will fly in a “slow-flutter” display close to the nest platforms and attempt to attract a female by this activity and also, the presentation of a prey item.

Listen to them, and enjoy the marvel of nature and share your citizen sightings with the Merlin Falcon Foundation: