Taiga Merlin (ssp. columbarius)

Taiga Merlin (subspecies columbarius)

In many ways Merlins (Falco columbarius) are like miniature versions of Peregrine Falcons: aggressive aerial predators often taking prey larger than themselves.

Merlins are just slightly larger than the smallest North American falcon, the American Kestrel. Based on migration and wintering data, Merlin populations seem to be on the rise almost across the board. This is great news in a day-and-age of growing concern over the population status of many bird species.

One possible explanation for increased Merlin numbers may be their ability to successfully adapt to urban life. Like their cousin the Peregrine, Merlins have been recorded breeding in urban areas in the recent past. They are also a fairly common urban raptor during the winter months, feeding on a plethora of non-native avian species including House Sparrows, European Starlings, Eurasian Collared-Doves, and even Rock Pigeons.

After witnessing a Merlin take down a Rock Pigeon in the middle of a downtown Salt Lake City street last month, the future seems bright for these feisty forest falcons.

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