5 Apr 2011

Merlin: AKA Bullet Hawk

This little Falcon, a Merlin, apparently resides in my neighborhood. I saw it a couple of times last year, but since it was migration season at the time and I never managed to get a photo of it, I didn't think about it much beyond my joy in seeing it.  I have seen it at least once or twice a week in the last few months, but the only reason I was able to get these beautiful photos was because it was in distress, and could be heard quite distinctly, even through my kitchen window.  I do not know if the bird was in distress because it was injured or because another predator had stolen it's prey, but it's shrieks were laud and persistent.  So, I threw on my coat and shoes, grabbed the camera and just followed it's voice.

Merlin Perched

If you click on the first picture, you will see that the Merlin clearly has blood on it belly, but it flew just fine.  If it was injured, the injury was obviously minor.

Merlin taking off
Merlin in flight

The Merlin is known by the alias Bullet Hawk, due to it's bullet like speed when it attacks it's prey, which is usually all unsuspecting.   In fact the Merlin's speed makes it difficult to capture on camera without a fast shutter speed.   The Merlin's other name is Pigeon Hawk, as it will not hesitate to go after larger prey, such as Pigeons which are bigger than the falcon itself.  No doubt this is why it was a favorite for keeping by falconers.

To give you an idea just how fast this bird is check out the photo below, which I took a couple of years ago.

Merlin speed of a bullet


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