›      ›   Merlin - Falco columbarius.

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 √©merillon; German: Merlin; Spanish: Esmerej√≥n;
  • Other names: Aesalon columbarius (Linnaeus, 1758); Falco aesalon Tunstall, 1771;
  • Family: Falconidae › Falconiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
Falco columbarius is closely related to F. chicquera. The nine recognized subspecies are: F. c. subaesalon C. L. Brehm, 1827, F. c. aesalon Tunstall, 1771, F. c. insignis (A. H. Clark, 1907), F. c. pacificus (Stegmann, 1929), F. c. pallidus (Sushkin, 1900), F. c. lymani Bangs, 1913, F. c. suckleyi Ridgway, 1874, F. c. columbarius Linnaeus, 1758 and F. c. richardsonii Ridgway, 1871.

Indian birds - Image of Merlin - Falco columbarius
Indian birds - Image of Merlin - Falco columbarius


The 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.


The 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 habits

The merlin feeds on small birds ( larks, pipits, house sparrows, sandpipers, flickers and rock pigeons) reptiles, bats, voles and large insects.


The 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.


The 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 Patterns

The merlin species are mostly migratory and the northern populations move southwards for wintering.

Status and conservation

The 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".

Biological classification of Falco columbarius
Species:F. columbarius
Binomial name:Falco columbarius
Distribution:Europe, Africa, Asia, Indian subcontinent, North America, south America and southeast Asia;
Feeding habits:small birds, bats, reptiles and insects;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

Popular posts in Birds of India

Image source:
Image author: David St. Louis | License: CC BY 2.0
Current topic in Birds of India: Merlin - Falco columbarius.
Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.