The merlin (Falco columbarius) belongs to the family Falconidae. These merlin species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, south America and southeast Asia.
Taxonomy of Merlin
- Scientific Name: Falco columbarius
- Common Name: Merlin
- French: Faucon émerillon; German: Merlin; Spanish: Esmerejón;
- Other names: Aesalon columbarius (Linnaeus, 1758); Falco aesalon Tunstall, 1771;
- Family: Falconidae › Falconiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
- Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
|Indian birds - Image of Merlin - Falco columbarius|
DescriptionThe merlin is a small bird of prey, measuring 25 to 35 cm in length and weighing 150 to 200 grams. The female marlin is larger and weighs 190 to 260 grams. The wingspan is 50 to 70 cm. Merlin is robust and heavily built falcon. The male has a blue-grey back and buff- to orange-tinted underparts. The tail has wide blackish bands. The eye and beak are dark and the cere is yellow. The feet are also yellow, with black claws. Its call is a chain of kee..kee.. sound.
HabitatThe merlin habitat is extremely varied. They are found in sea levels as well as high mountains. Merlins inhabit scrubs, shrubland, taiga forest, parks, grasslands, steppe and prairies.
Feeding habitsThe merlin feeds on small birds ( larks, pipits, house sparrows, sandpipers, flickers and rock pigeons) reptiles, bats, voles and large insects.
BreedingThe merlin breeding season is during March to June. They mostly use abandoned nests of other birds with dense vegetative or rocky cover. The clutch may contain four to five eggs. Most of the incubation is done by the female and the male hunts and feeds the family.
DistributionThe merlin subspecies F. c. subaesalon is distributed in Iceland. The subspecies F. c. aesalon distributed in northern Europe and northern Asia. The subspecies F. c. insignis distributed in eastern Siberia. The subspecies F. c. pacificus distributed in Far East Russia. The merlin subspecies F. c. pallidus distributed in steppes of Central Asia. The subspecies F. c. lymani distributed in mountains of Central Asia and Mongolia. The subspecies F. c. suckleyi distributed in Pacific coast of North America. The subspecies F. c. columbarius distributed in North America including Alaska and Central Canada. The merlin subspecies F. c. richardsonii distributed in plains of North America.
Movement PatternsThe merlin species are mostly migratory and the northern populations move southwards for wintering.
Status and conservationThe global population of merlin is estimated to number more than 1,300,000 individual birds. These species have an extremely large range and are considered least vulnerable. There is significant increase in merlin population.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these merlin species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Falco_columbarius_(Merlin)_(5530094753).jpg
Image author: David St. Louis | License: CC BY 2.0
Current topic in Birds of India: Merlin - Falco columbarius.