The Merlin is 24 to 33 cm (9.4 to 13 in) long with a 50 to 73 cm (20 to 29 in) wingspan . It is more robust and heavily built than other falcons. Males average at about 165g and females are typically 230 g. The male Merlin has a blue-grey back, ranging from almost black to silver-grey in different subspecies. Its underparts are buff- to orange-tinted and heavily streaked with black to reddish brown. The female and young are brownish-grey to dark brown above, and whitish buff spotted with brown below. They have sharply pointed wings, a broad chest, and a medium length tail.
Habitat and Distribution
Merlins inhabit open country, such as willow or birch scrub, shrubland, but also taiga forest, parks, and grassland. They are not very habitat-specific and can be found from sea level to the treeline. It is also migratory, birds in Northern Europe will move to southern Europe and North Africa. In the milder maritime parts of its breeding range, such as Great Britain, the Pacific Northwest and western Iceland, Central Asia, it will desert higher ground and move to coasts and lowland.
They often hunt by flying fast and low, taking prey by surprise. They usually tail-chase startled birds.
Breeding occurs typically in May/June. Most nest sites have dense vegetative or rocky cover; the Merlin does not build a proper nest of its own. Most will use abandoned corvid or hawk nests which are in conifer or mixed tree stands. Three to six rusty brown eggs are laid and their incubation takes 28 to 32 days.
Calls and Songs