Falco columbarius


The Merlin is a falcon that relies on speed and agility to hunt for prey, which is mainly small birds and large insects. Merlins often hunt by flying fast and low, typically less than four feet above the ground, trying to take prey by surprise. Merlins can be aggresive and have been known to attack other birds of prey they may encounter, including eagles.


General: 9 to 12 inches in length. American subspecies range from pale (Great Plains) to nearly black (Pacific Northwest).

Adult Male: Bluish-gray or brown cap, back and wings. Brown streaks on buffy chest and belly. Short, yellow, hooked beak with dark tip. Yellow edge around eye. Dark, checkered under wings. Yellow legs.

Adult Female: Similar to male, but smaller and has whitish underparts and all dark-brown cap, back and wings.


Open woodland, grasslands, open cultivated fields, marshes, estuaries, and seacoasts.


3-5 rusty brown eggs with brownish or chestnut markings. The eggs have a 28-32 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in 30-35 days. Merlins do not build a nest, instead, they reuse old raptor or crow nests.

Observed Locations:

  • Lake Murray, La Mesa
  • Mission Trails Regional Park
  • Fiesta Island, Mission Bay

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