The weekend of the 4th I had the opportunity to take four students to the state STUCO convention. As I was driving I noticed some small falcons that I was able to identify as Merlins (Falco columbarius). These small birds, 10 to 14 inches in length, are very fascinating since they harass larger birds such as hawks and gulls. They also kill most of their prey, usually smaller birds, while in flight.
When you see these swift little fliers in this area they are usually in the middle of a migration. Merlins nest in Alaska , Canada into Wyoming and Montana . They spend their winters from British Columbia south to New Mexico and into central Texas . They have also been spotted in the Carolinas .
Merlins are heavy bodied. The males are slate colored and the females are brownish. They have a long tail that is banded. They do not have stripes on the face as do most falcons.
During nesting, 5 or 6 eggs are laid in the nest that is located in a tree cavity or a rocky ledge Sometimes abandoned crows nests are used. Incubation starts as soon as the first egg is laid. This means the young hatch at intervals. The larger young are fed first so the smaller ones usually die of starvation.
This behavior ensures that some of the young will live even in hard times. The male provides the female and young with food. The female will fly out and take the food from the male in flight.
Look for this beautiful bird when you are out exploring your world. You will find something fascinating!
Boise City News