California Raptor Center


Scientific Name: Falco columbarius
(Falco is Latin for falcon, columbarius in Latinmeans ‘pertaining to a dove (pigeon), a reference to the original N. American common name 'pigeon hawk' after its resemblance to a pigeon in flight).        

Size: Length: 9-12in Wingspan: 21-27in

Weight: Female: 213g (average) (0.47lb) Male: 158g (average) (0.35lb)

Lifespan: In the wild the average lifespan is 7 years and in captivity 12 years.

ID: A stocky, small falcon, the Merlin is an over all brown streaky, light bird with faint mustache marks. The juveniles have brown overwings, and adults have gray overwings. Both have dark bellies and underwings with small white spots.

Hunting: They often tail-chase birds, or cause flocks to fly up and then catch the birds when they attempt to drop back to the ground. Merlins have been known to imitate a non-raptor flight in an apparent attempt to get closer to its bird prey.   

Prey: They eat small animals, usually birds and small rodents.

Breeding: They take old nests from other birds. Clutches range in size from 3 to 6 eggs. These hatch after 27 to 32 days, and the chicks fledge after one month.

Range: Merlins are partial migrators, tending to breed further north.

Status: They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.