The Merlin is a small falcon. They are smaller than a Crow, about 9.5-12 inches (24-30cm) long. They have a very streaky chest, white bands in the tail and a stocky build. They lack the strong “mustache” marking that other falcons possess. They are fast, agile fliers and fierce hunters, taking small birds in flight. Mated pairs have been known to hunt as a team with one flushing a flock of birds before the second zooms in to take advantage of the confusion. We get a chance to see them as they migrate in the spring and fall. There are subspecies in Eurasia so this raptor has a worldwide distribution.

Here’s some Merlin trivia. Merlins were often used for hunting by medieval noblewomen. The name comes the French name for this bird, esmerillon. Merlin, the wizard in Arthurian legends, is of Welsh origin and there isn’t any connection between him and the bird. The name Merlin has appeared in the world of aviation over the years. Probably the most well known airplane engine in WWII was the Rolls-Royce Merlin. It was used in many aircraft with the Spitfire and Mustang being the names most associated with them. Today, the name carries on into space as the SpaceX Falcon 9 is powered by Merlin rocket engines.

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