Falco columbarius


The merlin is a small falcon, not much bigger than a blackbird. Merlins feed on small birds, especially meadow pipits which they chase in flight, low to the ground. Its small size also allows it to 'hang' in the breeze as it pursues its prey. They nest on the ground, amongst the heather. In the winter, our population of merlins increases as breeding birds are joined by migrants from Iceland in search of warmer climes.

How to identify

Male merlins are blue-grey above with a grey head and orangey-cream underparts streaked in black. The female is mainly grey-brown, with dark streaking underneath. Merlins have blunt tails and compact, broad-based wings that are pointed at the tip.

Where to find it

Nests on moorlands in North and South West England, Wales and Scotland; winters on coastal marshes and farmland in the lowlands.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

The merlin suffered a devastating population crash in the 20th century due to habitat loss and pesticide poisoning but is now making a recovery. To ensure their continued success, The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to promote wildlife-friendly practices. We are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Falco columbarius
Birds of prey
Length: 26-31cm Wingspan: 56cm Weight: 180-230g Average Lifespan: 3 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and listed under CITES Appendix II.