Merlin Nestlings

(Falco columbarius). Patient Number 22-617 to 621.

Date of admission: June 15, 2022.
Reason for admission: Displaced from nest.

Patient History:

Merlins are a type of falcon; they are small, about 160-240 grams and you can identify them by their darker gray or brown tones and fast-paced wingbeats. They are between a robin and crow in size and have a wingspan of 50-73 centimeters. Merlins have pointed wings and a medium tail length measuring about 24 to 33 centimeters long. Their chest is broad with lighter coloring. White with brown streaks. Adult male merlins have dark gray wings and more of an orange hue on their underbelly while the females tend to have dark brown wings with a light brown and white underbelly. Like other raptors, female raptors are larger than male merlins.

Merlins are energetic, fast, and agile. They are powerful flyers, beating their wings fast and rarely gliding. Merlins are good hunters and team up in pairs to hunt large bird flocks such as waxwings. They can eat up to 900 birds in a year! They are considered aerial foragers, catching birds at high speeds in midair. Common small medium-sized birds are their main prey, this includes songbirds like house sparrows and shore birds. They can hunt larger prey like pigeons and small ducks, who can be twice their size. Their diet can also include small mammals, some reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Merlins are found in Canada, Alaska, Europe, Asia, and parts of the northern and western United States. Breeding typically occurs in central Canada and in the northern Prairies of the United States. However, the Taiga Merlins of the northern forests, breed from Newfoundland to Alaska. Depending on the sub-species, Merlins have different migration patterns. Taiga Merlins are complete migrants, migrating from their breeding habitats to the United States, West Indies, Mexico, and northern South America. Black Merlins are sedentary, staying in their southern breeding grounds, very few migrate south, only when they are far north. Prairie Merlins are partial migrators, some migrate to Central America and the southern United States while others remain on their breeding grounds year-round.

Merlins have monogamous relationships; they winter separately and then form new breeding pairs in the winter or reunite with old mates. They bond two months before laying eggs by wooing each other with aerial displays. They can do figure eights and rolls in the air to engage the females. This is often coupled with the exchange of food. They return to the same breeding territory but rarely use the same nests. They have clutches of 4 to 5 eggs, the eggs are small only 1.5 inches long, brown rust-colored, and with brown markings. If a clutch of Merlins gets destroyed, they can have a second nest that season. They nest in other birds’ previous nests, including corvid nests or hawk nests. These nests can be commonly found in both conifer and deciduous trees, tree cavities, and cliffs.

Nestlings are fluffy and white from their down feathers; they have yellow feet and weigh under 14 grams. Merlin nestlings are helpless and very reliant on their parents. The mother broods the nestlings, keeping them warm for 7 days and then only in cold weather after they are a week old. The male will provide the family with food while the female keeps the nestlings warm, they then take turns getting food for the nestlings calling each other when they are returning to switch jobs. The birds will leave the nest and reach fledgling age after about a month and will leave the nest and begin to catch their own food, usually insects. They are still reliant on their parents for food and protection at this age and for the continuing 5 weeks.

These five merlin nestlings were brought to a vet clinic after being blown out of their nest. They were only 14g and covered in fluffy white feathers. Vet clinics can call us after receiving wildlife and we will pick them up soon after, raising the nestlings until old enough to be released. When dropping off injured or orphaned wildlife at veterinary clinics, always remember to leave their information on the provided intake form as we received these nestlings without their previous location and reason for admission. Our rehabilitation staff always appreciate knowing their circumstance when they are admitted. Thank you so much for supporting these orphaned merlin nestlings!

Merlin Nestlings

Our Adoption Program Includes:

  • An 8x10 colour photo of the patient
  • An adoption certificate with the patient's story
  • A tax receipt for the full amount of the donation

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  • Regular price $25.00

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