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Alternative name: Pigeon Hawk
Smallish falcon. Approximately 10-13 inches in length. Pointed wings, less distinguishable facial stripe than most falcons, just a slightly darker slash.
Gunmetal-blue above, with streaked underparts
 Female & Immature
Brownish, as is juvenile.
 Specific populations
Pacific Coast "Black" or "Suckley's" Merlins are very dark, while the "Richardson's" prairie Merlin is noticeably paler than the other subspecies.
Generally breeds in the northern hemisphere, with some populations almost resident while others migrate south in winter
From North America there is migration to the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America, while European birds migrate to southern Europe and Africa north of Sahara. Also occurs in northern Asia.
Breeds over most of Alaska and Canada south of the tree-line and in the north-west and north-central USA. Winters from south-west Canada, the western and southern USA south through Mexico to Panama, in the West Indies and the northern coast of South America. Vagrant south to Bahia, Brazil.
In Europe breeds in Iceland and the Faroes, throughout northern Scandinavia, sporadically in the Baltic States and widespread across northern Russia. Also very patchily in the uplands of the north and west British Isles although now extremely rare in south-west England. Dispersive in south-west Iceland and the British Isles, but elsewhere a summer visitor. Autumn movements take place mainly in September-October with the spring return in April-May. Winters in coastal Britain, Denmark and southern Sweden south to the Mediterranean, on some of the larger islands and in North Africa. Recorded as a vagrant north to Svalbard and south to Madeira and the Canary Islands.
Occurs across northern Asia from the Urals east to the Pacific coast of Russia and Sakhalin and ranges south to the Tien Shan Mountains in Central Asia. Winters from the Middle East to the Himalayas, northern Indochina, China and Japan. A vagrant to Oman and Yemen.
Eight races are usually recognised:
The large and dark F.c.subaesalon breeds in Iceland and the Faroes and winters in the British Isles, rarely on European coasts from Norway to France
There have been proposals to split the North American group from the European group, as they have more than 2% sequence divergence.
Breeds on moorland and heaths, tundra and boreal forest-edge. In winter on coastal farmland, marshes and other open habitats.
Especially the American Merlins are known for their aggressive behavior, even during migration going out of their way to mob larger birds of prey.
The most important food is small birds which are generally caught in flight.
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Wink et al. Molecular systematics of holarctic raptors (Order Falconiformes). In: Chancellor et al. (eds.): Holarctic Birds of Prey: 29-48. http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/institute/fak14/ipmb/phazb/pubwink/1998/31.%201998.pdf
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