MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Merlin adult male has a grey-blue back and head, and beige-orange under parts with brown streaks. Females and juveniles are brown with light under parts with brown streaks. The tail has a black band edged in white. The bill is grey with a yellow cere. The eyes are brown. The legs and feet are yellow. This bird is a small falcon at around 30 cm (12 inches) long. There are several subspecies.
NAME:  The English name ‘Merlin’ is the term used in falconry for the female. The Latin genus name ‘Falco’ means ‘sickle’, in reference to the curved shape of this bird’s bill and talons. The Latin species name ‘columbarius’ is a reference to the old English name ‘pigeon hawk’.
HABITAT: Open area around forests, in plains, around urban areas. In the winter, also in coastal areas where small migratory birds gather.
DIET: Mainly small birds, caught in mid-air.
NESTING: The nest is located on a tree or a cliff allowing for an open view on the surrounding area. Merlins do not build their own nest, rather they use a nest from other species. Around four brown eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female mostly. She also feeds the young with food brought by the male.
DISTRIBUTION: The merlin’s breeding range covers most of Canada (except the Arctic), and Russia, Scandinavia and Alaska. It migrates to middle Europe, parts of Asia, in the central plains and the coastal areas of the USA, and to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Vagrants have been observed on Hawaii. (See note below for information on bird vagrancy.)
ON PEI: The merlin breeds on Prince Edward Island and is fairly common except in the winter, when it is rare.

CONSERVATION: The population of this falcon appears stable and is currently not considered at risk.
NOTES: The merlin hunts by ambushing its prey, and can fly low and fast. It is used in falconry for its good hunting skills.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Sharp-shinned Hawk
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)

Female merlin – New Glasgow, PEI – Mar. 13, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Merlin female, PEI, by Matt Beardsley
Female or juvenile merlin at sunset in North Rustico – PEI, Aug. 11, 2016 – by Matt Beardsley
Merlin female or juvenile, Matt Beardsley
Merlin in North Rustico, PEI – Sept. 16, 2017 – © Matt Beardsley
Merlin, PEI, Canada, by Matt Beardsley