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Douglas County Birds: Merlin

1:28 AM · Jan 8, 2023

A Merlin is a small speedy Falcon roughly the size between a robin and a crow. Merlins have a grey back, thin white eyebrow stripe, white patch under beak, and a streaked front. Merlins can fly up to speeds of around 30 mph! Merlins primarily hunt small birds and sometimes small mammals and large insects such as dragonflies. Common prey for them includes House Sparrows, European Starlings, and small shorebirds. Merlins are very fast birds and often hunt at high speed chasing their prey. Merlins breed throughout Canada and Alaska and can be found wintering here in Douglas County. Often you will see a Merlin flying fast in a particular direction or chasing a flock of birds. Merlins don't build their nests, they reuse old crows, ravens, or hawk's nests sometimes making small changes. Merlins generally lay 4-5 eggs and incubate them for 28-32 days before hatching. Baby Merlins weigh just 0.5 ounces when they hatch. The young fledge the nest when they are about 25-35 days old. A few good spots to see them in the area include Fords Pond, North Bank Road, and large fields with scattered trees in and around them. Merlins can be differentiated from other small raptors by observing their behavior and looks. Merlins have very fast wingbeats and are dark overall with a heavily streaked front. Photo by Abraham Finlay

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