Merlin Bird: 21 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Here are Merlin bird facts for you to know and learn.

When we use the quote 'the sky's the limit', things like power, determination, and other positive things come to our minds. But we often forget that this sky is home to so many extraordinary aerial beings, the features and characteristics of which may leave us in awe. One such aerial being is a falcon named merlin. These falcons are exceptional aerial fighters and are relatives of the American kestrel species of falcons. These nesting birds exhibit sexual dimorphism wherein males and females are of different sizes, like all other raptors. Predators of merlins include peregrine falcons, great horned owls, Cooper's hawks, and red-tailed hawks.

These birds prey on house sparrows and hence can be found across towns and urban areas with an abundant supply of house sparrows. Breeding merlin pairs can often be spotted hunting cooperatively and these merlin pairs are likely to remain together for several seasons. This fact file is dedicated to this bird of prey, whose scientific name is Falco columbarius. After this, you may also look at prairie falcon facts and pygmy falcon facts.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Sparrow, quail, small mammals, and insects

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

1 -4 eggs

How much do they weigh?

Up to 0.6 lb (0.27 kg)

How long are they?

9.4-13 in (23.8-33.02 cm)

How tall are they?

20-30 in (50.8-76.2 cm) (wingspan)

What do they look like?

Gray white feathers, dark brown backs, and dark brown tail with narrow white bands

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Habitat Loss

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Coastal regions and open woodlands


North America, Eurasia, Northern South America, and Northern Africa





Scientific Name

Falco columbarius





Merlin Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a merlin?

The merlin (Falco columbarius) is a bird found mainly in the northern hemisphere. It is a falcon, also referred to as a pigeon hawk earlier. This raptor subspecies gets this name because, in flight, it appears like a pigeon and the pigeon bird is also referred to by the name similar to its species name columbarius.

What class of animal does a merlin belong to?

A merlin bird belongs to the class Aves and phylum Chordata of kingdom Animalia and more specifically it belongs to a family of birds named Falconidae. This subspecies is made up of approximately 60 species of falcons and Caracas diurnal birds. The wintering range of these nesting birds can extend deep into Latin America.

How many merlins are there in the world?

The merlin bird's populations are quite widespread in North America, but these birds of North America are found all across the Northern hemisphere. Populations of some subspecies can be found across northern South America and northern Africa. In various regions and habitats, a merlin bird can be spotted from 200-300 in pairs to around 30,000  pairs in total.

Where does a merlin live?

These nesting birds are usually spotted in the coastal regions in North America, in the Northern Holarctic region, and in Eurasia. These nesting birds can be spotted in the coastal areas in almost any open country since these are migratory birds. During winters these hunting birds migrate to their wintering grounds in the western and southeastern United States.

What is a merlin's habitat?

A merlin bird builds its nests near water bodies such as rivers and lakes. In these regions, these urban birds build their nests in the trees and shrubs. Merlins are quite frequently also seen breeding in the cities and residential areas. Here these prairie birds occupy crow’s nests present around the school areas and in isolated places like graveyards and parks. During winter, most birds migrate to the western and southeast United States.

Who do merlins live with?

These urban birds often avoid large groups and are mostly seen by themselves. Merlins live in solitary and pair up during the breeding season. But even then, merlins prefer hunting alone. The breeding range for merlins has been shifting southwards due to climate change and several other reasons. This prairie subspecies nests in shrubs and trees along rivers and in deciduous forests.

How long does a merlin live?

A merlin bird’s life span is somewhere around 10-11 years in the wild. But these raptors may live for a longer period in captivity under care and supervision. During the breeding season, it is common to spot merlin pairs. These birds are known to breed, nest, and lay eggs in open and semi open areas across North America.

How do they reproduce?

These monogamous birds breed in the months of May and June which is their prime breeding season and build their nests in dense forests or along with rocky areas. Most of them do not build their nests on their own and may use the ones left by corvid or hawk. After mating, the female lays eggs and incubates them till it hatches. After hatching, the young ones may fledge after a month but are dependent on their parents till these young merlins are mature enough to survive on their own.

What is their conservation status?

A merlin comes under the Least Concern species of birds. The survival rate for merlins is high since it is a hunter and isn't habitat-specific. But drastic changes in the climate and increasing pollution have imposed a threat on these birds and their survival in the future may become difficult in the residential areas more specifically.

Merlin Fun Facts

What do merlins look like?

The merlin bird is a small-sized falcon but is heavily built and is a muscular bird, slightly smaller than an American kestrel. These raptors have blue and gray backs, and the underside of the body is orangish in appearance and there also may be the presence of brown spots in some of these birds. The plumage on their head may show faint white supercilium. Their tail is wide and has black bands near the tip. Eyes and beaks are dark and these birds have long wingspan which assists them in faster flight. These falcons use their beak for killing prey before feeding on them.

A merlin bird size is smaller than that of an American Kestral.

How cute are they?

A Columbarius may be a cute and attractive-looking bird, especially with its eyes and facial features that appear like it is scrunched up while focusing on some random object. But you need to be careful because merlins can be dangerous too since they are predators of the wild. It is advisable to avoid being in the vicinity of merlins when they are fighting aggressively amongst themselves.

How do they communicate?

Although these birds live mostly in solitary, merlins are expressive and have their own way of communicating. Both the male and female communicate through shrill and chatter merlin bird call that may last for only a few seconds. These birds may also express themselves by getting into fights. These raptors become more vocal during courtship and use short calls to attract the opposite partner for mating. Merlin bird sound variations are used to shun the other birds away during aggressive situations. A male merlin has a higher vocal pitch than a female merlin.

How big is a merlin?

The merlin is a short sized falcon and the merlin bird range of size is around 9.4-13 in (23.8-33.02 cm). Their wingspan is about 20-30 in (50.8-76.2 cm). These breeding birds are two-thirds the size of an average crow and half the size of a raven bird.

How fast can a merlin fly?

Merlins are swift flyers and exceptional hunters. Merlins can fly at a speed of around 45 mph (72.4 kph). Their aerodynamically designed anatomy is very useful for catching smaller birds and other aerial prey. These birds are counted amongst the fastest aerial organisms present on the globe. Owing to their fast flight speed they are named magical merlin.

How much does a merlin weigh?

The merlin is a muscular bird species. A female merlin is usually heavier than a male merlin. The average weight of a male merlin is around 5.8 oz (0.16 kg) and that of a female merlin is around 8.1 oz (0.22 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

All the male falcon birds, including the merlin, are referred to as Jack. But the female merlin does not have any specific name and is known as a female. Both the sexes are recognizable by a few distinct features including their weight and size. Usually, a Jack is smaller in size than a female merlin.

What would you call a baby merlin?

A young merlin baby chick is referred to as an eyas. The juvenile merlin stays with the parent merlin birds for about three to four weeks after hatching. These young baby merlins after a few months of fledgling, stay back with the adult merlin birds and help them build their nests.

What do they eat?

The merlin is a predatory bird and has a carnivorous diet. It feeds on a variety of small animals such as small mammals, insects, and especially small birds like sparrows and quails. Known predators of the merlin are peregrine falcons, great horned owls, Cooper's hawks, and red-tailed hawks.

Are they dangerous?

These birds are not really harmful to human beings unless merlins are disturbed. These birds are strong in physique and are great hunters, hence even though merlins are not harmful, you need to be careful around the merlin bird of prey.

Would they make a good pet?

These are wild birds and are meant to live in open areas such as coastal regions and woodlands. Merlins are sometimes kept in the zoo and bird sanctuaries and are seen to live longer than this species may live in the wild. But that is under expert care and supervision. Merlins are not fit to live in normal households hence they don't make good pets.

Did you know...

Merlin birds were used in falconry during the Medieval European era. This practice was carried out by the ladies of the court, who would let this raptor subspecies fly and catch birds like sparrows and skylarks.

Do merlin birds eat pigeons?

Merlins usually feed on small birds but may sometimes be seen feeding on larger birds such as pigeons. These falcons get their names pigeon hawkers not because they feed on pigeons, but because these falcons have species names similar to the genus name of pigeon bird.

Is a merlin a hawk or a falcon?

The merlin is a falcon bird. It has strong wings and can achieve greater speed like other falcon birds. These falcons use their beak for killing their prey and feed on a total carnivore diet which includes small birds of different species.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our white hawk facts and hardhead facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Merlin Bird coloring pages.



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