Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Merlins in the city

New York City may be known as an urban habitat for Peregrine Falcons, but another type of falcon can be found here in the city:  Merlins.

Smaller than Peregrines and bigger than Kestrels, Merlins can easily be overlooked as they blend in with similarly-sized birds such as pigeons and starlings.

For size reference, here is a Merlin flying alongside a Red-tailed Hawk in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Merlins in our area (Taiga) are mostly brown and streaky. Males have a dark gray back and wings, and they prey on smaller birds, rodents and insects.

We caught this one taking a break in a tree on a dreary day.


That look is so fierce!

Stretching to reveal a beautifully banded tail.






If you're walking the streets and see flocks of starlings, pigeons or house sparrows suddenly flying together in evasive patterns, look to see if there's a raptor in the mix as it could be a Merlin trying to snag some lunch.


To note, all of these photos were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped. We remained very far away from the birds and stayed as hidden as possible so as not to disturb their activities. In the city, it can sometimes be easy to get close to a raptor, but we take care to practice ethical birding and not interrupt the birds when they're hunting, sleeping or resting.

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