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Merlin

Irish: Meirliún
Latin: Falco columbarius

Description:
Smallest falcon with an active and agile flight and rapid wingbeats. Adult male blue-grey, tail with black terminal band and dark primaries. Breast rusty-yellow with fine dark streaks and white throat. The adult female has brown-grey upperparts and heavily barred dark tail. Breast is buff-white and with bold dark streaks. Juveniles are very similar in appearance to adult female.

Habitat:
Found over upland, dry and wet heath and areas of raised and blanket bog. Also found nesting and hunting on the edges of conifer plantations.

Food:
Feeds on a variety of small passerines such as meadow pipit, wheatear, finches, starlings and young waders. Also takes insects such as moths and small rodents.

Breeding:
Uses old crow nests in trees especially in plantations or scattered pines in peatlands. Can nest on the ground. Lays 4-6 eggs in late April-May and incubates for 24-27 days and the young leave the nest after 26 days or so.

Status:
The current status of Merlin in Ireland is probably 100-200 pairs. There are up to 30 pairs in Northern Ireland, 19 pairs in Wicklow (Anthony McElheron) and 19 pairs in south Connemara (Paul Haworth).