Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator
Scout, the Merlin, came to the Mountsberg Raptor Centre in Fall 2008 at less than a year old. He transferred to Mountsberg Conservation Area from another raptor facility. He had strong signs of being imprinted, and it’s a guess, but he may have been kept as a pet illegally. He loves the warm sun and taking a refreshing bath. Scout is one of the most vocal residents at the Raptor Centre!
Merlins are small, fierce, and aggressive birds that are mostly found in northern North America. Merlins are not much bigger than the American Kestrel, although Merlins are heavier and often appear considerably larger. They are exceptionally aggressive towards other raptors and crows. For a smaller bird of prey, it makes up for its small stature with a feisty personality!
Merlins are specialist hunters, and hunt mostly song birds and shore birds. They patrol shorelines and open areas, and rarely glide when they fly. They are usually scanning or flying at maximum speeds. The average flight speed is 30 miles an hour. While hunting, they will spend a long period of time perched—waiting for prey. They also use surprise attack tactics to catch prey–typically catching them in midair during high speed attacks. It’s been documented that famous Medieval aristrocrats, like Mary, Queen of Scots, used merlins to hunt song birds for recreation.
As with most raptors, female Merlins are larger than males. Merlins lay their eggs in abandoned nests of crows and hawks, in either conifers or deciduous trees of semi-open habitats. They tend to choose nests with a good view of the surrounding area. During the breeding season they are very territorial, and outside of the breeding season they are very solitary birds.