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Merlin        Images © Mark A. Chappell

These fast-flying little falcons breed in the north and winter further south.   Compared to other falcons, such as the American kestrel, peregrine, or aplomado falcon, the merlin has few head markings.   Perhaps its best field mark is the strikingly banded tail, visible in several of these photos.   Merlins feed on large insects and small birds that are captured in flight, and have long toes to facilitate snatching prey out of the air.   The birds in several of these images are males (identified by their grayish backs) of the common 'boreal' race with intermediate coloration.   Two are of the dark Pacific race with a heavily streaked front, both females or juveniles; several images show pale birds probably of the 'prairie' race.   I took the pictures at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, near Churchill, Manitoba, and several sites in California:   the Salton Sea, Panoche Valley, San Francisco Bay, coastal Orange County, and the San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Riverside.
            More merlin pictures arehere, here, and here; birds at Bosque del Apache are here.

  • Canon 10D, 40D, 1D Mk. II, 1D3, 1D4, or 7D2; 500 mm f4 IS or 800 mm f5.6 IS lens, + 1.4X or 2X converter (2X and 1.4X combined for one image), fill-in flash on some (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010-2013, 2016)