Red Deer River Naturalists

The Red Deer river Naturalists are a group dedicated to learning about and preserving natural history. They have regular programs with speakers and many field trips.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Opportunistic Merlin Hunters

       Merlins are extremely interesting to watch as they quite often show you something new. Merlins  hunt other birds for their food. Their prey is taken during flight. They have a variety of attacks, but I like the stealth that they are capable of using.

      Merlins are excellent fliers. They fly rapidly using quick wing flaps. They are extremely agile. What they are admired for most is their dive.

     Recently I saw a really sneaky method of hunting used by a merlin. Earlier this winter the Bohemian waxwings were using a huge poplar tree near my house for  perching between feedings. We've all seen this were hundreds of waxwings land in one tree for a few minutes. They rest, preen and socialize for a few minutes. It's an awesome sight to see so many birds in one location. There is usually much milling about as individual birds look for a good spot to perch. One time I looked out my window to see how the waxwings were doing and there were no birds present which is normal as they rotate around the neighborhood. Then something caught my eye. There was a single bird in the tree . It was a merlin! So the crafty beggar was waiting in the tree hoping all the waxwings would land in the tree without seeing him. What a sneaky devil. I wasn't patient enough to watch and see if the merlin was successful in his hunt. 

     Has anybody seen a similar tactic used by merlins?


  1. Too funny, nothing like letting the meal come to you. We have a Merlin that stays around here all winter, I think its mate migrates though as I only see one in winter. Every now and then I hear it screaming past with its shrill call, I was told thats how they spook small birds into flight so they can catch a meal. I'm going to have to paint a Merlin as I have lots of images of them.

  2. On my Hiawatha house blog I posted on a merlin that flew by my face at arm's length. It was trying to scare house sparrows out of a tree beside me.
    I must check if the females go south. In the winter you only see one and it's the same one as they find a territory and stick to it.
    I look forward to seeing the painting.