Thursday, September 27, 2007

Late-Flying Merlin

The girls and I were treated yesterday to a rare close-up of a male Merlin (Falco columbarius). These small but formidable falcons winter in Oregon, but though they breed at this latitude in states to the east of us, they have never been documented nesting here. They are not common even in winter, and when you see one, it is usually heading for the horizon at high speed.

Unlike other migrant raptors (Red-tailed Hawks and, especially, Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks), Merlins tend to come past our migration count site (at Bonney Butte) singly, one or two a week. And frequently, that single Merlin will be the last raptor seen in a given day. Such was the case yesterday, and we were fortunate enough to lure it in and capture it. Females and young are mostly brown, but the blue of the wings and back of adult males is distinctive and elegant. A beautiful bird, and certainly one of my favorites.

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