Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)

Least Concern

Merlin (Falco columbarius)


French: Faucon émerillon German: Merlin Spanish: Esmerejón

Falco columbarius


, 1758,

America = South Carolina, USA


Formerly placed in genus Aesalon. Has been allied with F. chicquera, but no clear relationship. Nine subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • F. c. subaesalon C. L. Brehm, 1827 – Iceland.
  • F. c. aesalon Tunstall, 1771 – N Eurasia from Faeroes E to C Siberia.
  • F. c. insignis (A. H. Clark, 1907) – Siberia E of R Yenisey to R Anadyr#R.
  • F. c. pacificus (Stegmann, 1929) – Russian Far East, including Sakhalin I.
  • F. c. pallidus (Sushkin, 1900) – steppes of Asia, from S Ural Mts (near Aral Sea) E to NE Kazakhstan (Altai Mts).
  • F. c. lymani Bangs, 1913 – mountains of C Asia from Pamir-Alai range to Altai and E to Transbaikalia and Mongolia.
  • F. c. suckleyi Ridgway, 1874 – Pacific coast of North America from S Alaska and British Columbia S to N Washington.
  • F. c. columbarius Linnaeus, 1758 – Alaska (except coast) E through S & C Canada to Newfoundland and S (except Great Plains) to N USA.
  • F. c. richardsonii Ridgway, 1871 – Great Plains of North America (from C Alberta S to Wyoming).
  • In winter to C & S Europe, North Africa, Middle East, S & SE Asia, Japan, and S & E North America to N South America.

    Descriptive notes

    24–32 cm; male 125–234 g, female 155–300 g; wingspan 53–73 cm. Distinctive small, stocky, dashing falcon. Male has upperparts dark or pale bluish,... read more


    Mainly silent, except in vicinity of nest. Main call a fast accelerating series of notes, “kee..kee... read more


    Extremely varied, from sea-level up to treeline at 3000 m in some mountain ranges, from boreal... read more

    Food and feeding

    Chiefly small birds under 50 g during breeding season, with Merlins in SE Scotland being heavily dependent on Meadow Pipits (Anthus... read more


    Nests mainly in Mar–Jun; study in SE Scotland recorded egg-laying from fourth week of Apr to first week of Jun. Solitary. Nest... read more


    Migratory, except populations in Iceland, British Is, locally in C Asian mountains, Pacific NW in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Status of Asian races not satisfactorily documented. Between 1960 and 1970s, significant accumulations of chlorinated... read more

    Recommended citation

    White, C.M., Boesman, P., Kirwan, G.M. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Merlin (Falco columbarius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 December 2019).