(Falco columbarius). Patient Number 21-1545.
Date of admission: September 17, 2021.
Reason for admission: Feather damage.
Merlins are small falcons, adults measure 24-33 centimeters long with a wingspan of 50-73 centimeters. Merlins inhabit the northern hemisphere, with populations found throughout North America and across most of Eurasia.
Merlins can be found living in a wide variety of habitats, from wooded regions to open grasslands. In Alberta, merlins are commonly spotted hunting in the prairie regions of the province. Most merlins migrate to the southern United States and to northern South America for the winter, with only a few remaining in Alberta year-round.
Merlins are speedy and agile. They prey on a variety of smaller bird species, including larks and sparrows. Typically, merlins will catch their prey in mid-air, their ability to fly fast and close to the ground allows them to catch startled birds that have been flushed from the ground or off of branches into the air. Breeding pairs will often hunt cooperatively, with one merlin flushing a startled bird off the ground for its mate to catch. Merlins will also prey on other animals, including insects, reptiles, and small mammals, including bats and voles.
When the male is pursuing a female he will perform spectacular flight displays, in addition to providing food offerings. If the female is impressed they will construct their nest in a pre-existing nest, a natural tree cavity, or along a cliff ledge. A clutch is approximately 3-5, eggs, and the female will incubate for 28-32 days. After hatching, the young will take their first flight at about 29 days.
This merlin was brought to us with damaged primary feathers and will need to go through a feather moult to grow new flight feathers before he can be returned to the wild. Thank you for helping us to keep him forever wild!