Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unexpected Subject: Merlin

I headed out today in search of paved walkways, knowing that our recent snow was melting fast, and a lunchtime walk is no good for a bog walk. I stopped by the South Boulder Trail and happened upon this Richardson's (Prairie) Merlin.

It was perched above a footbridge on the pathway, and had already allowed a pair of walkers and one snowplow to pass below it when I approached.

Seemingly well conditioned to pedestrians, it sat as I passed below allowing some great looks from below.

At first the identification escaped me. I was trying to resolve between a Sharp-shinned Hawk and Prairie Falcon, but obviously neither fit. Sharpies were quickly eliminated, as this bird has too many falcon features. Check out the yellow fleshy rings around the eyes, and the 'teeth' on the sides of the bill - both are falcon traits. What threw me off was that this bird lacked the vertical striping on its face so typical of other falcons.

After some flipping I finally got it. My only previous Merlin had been a Boreal subspecies, which is much darker, so this lighter variety was not what I was expected. For a first opportunity to photograph a Merlin I could not have hoped for a more cooperative species.

Here's hoping that there will be more sightings to rival this one on future walks!


  1. Fantastic Merlin photos!
    Will Burt

  2. Those are great photos! Beautiful bird!

  3. Thank you both for your kind feedback. I am glad you enjoyed them. I sure enjoyed taking them.

  4. Those are wonderful pictures. How fortunate that he was choosing to pose on a branch with white bark, that echoes the color of his chest. It looks as though you posed him there.

  5. Now if I could just persuade all the birds I see to be so cooperative. Thanks Joy.

  6. Very nice. Love his open mouth! Did he make a sound? Such a calm bird.

  7. The Merlin wasn't vocalizing. I believe that since it was so content to perch it had just eaten. Mr. Schmoker associates the 'yawning' behavior to moving food back from the crop: Based on what I observed that could likely have been what the bird was doing.