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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.   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.   This page shows a male (identified by its grayish back), a female or juvenile feeding on a small bird, and a female or juvenile eating dragonflies, all near the San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Riverside, California.   These birds were unusually confiding and let me get images from several directions.
            More merlin pictures (including other races) are here, here, and here.

  • Canon 1D4 or 7D2; 800 mm f5.6 IS lens, + 1.4X converter, fill-in flash (2013, 2014, 2015)