Friday, August 13, 2021


Erika and I photographed this Merlin on 23 July 2021 at the Billy Frank Jr National Wildlife Refuge just east of Olympia. When we took these images, we assumed that we had one bird, but our pictures look like we found a male and a female. The second photo appears to be quite dark, a field mark of the black race of Merlin, Falco columbarius suckleyi. This race breeds Washington, British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska. The race is usually nonmigratory, although some individuals wander as far as California and New Mexico. The species used to be known as the Pigeon Hawk. I always assumed this name was due to the falcon’s feeding preferences. In fact, the name derives from the bird’s pigeon size. They take small to medium-sized birds. The name Merlin was adopted for this falcon since, technically, it is not a hawk. Merlin comes from the bird's traditional French name, esmerillon (Warkentin et al. 2020).


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