News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Country birds

The smallest falcon, the Merlin (Falco columbarius), primarily hunts smaller birds while flying — flushing birds from thickets and chasing them using their amazing speed and maneuverability to catch their prey on the wing.

During their breeding season the Merlin inhabits open upland and lowland prairies. Merlins do not build their own nests; instead they use old stick nests built by hawks, magpies or crows. Occasionally they nest on ledges or tree cavities. The nest contains three to six brown eggs, which are incubated for 27 to 32 days.

The male provides all food for the brood and female until the young begin to fledge. The young leave the nest about a month after hatching and leave the area within five weeks to begin their adult life.

There are Merlins passing through Central Oregon now, as they will stop and hunt before heading south, although a few may remain in our area.

In the past the Merlin was called a pigeon hawk. Groups of Merlins are referred to as a “leash,” a “brace,” or an “illusion” of Merlins. For more Merlin photos visit


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