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Merlin Meal

Posted on Jan 7, 2016

Here’s a little Throwback Thursday to a very recent day – my Christmas Bird Count! This Merlin (Falco columbarius) was the last new species added to our section of the count circle, and we enjoyed it chasing House Sparrows upon initially sighting it. A Cooper’s Hawk came out of nowhere and scared all of the birds, startling the falcon and causing it to drop its prey. However, a little while later we saw it had successfully captured another House Sparrow, this time without losing the meal. It took the bird to a snag and went on with its early evening dining under cloudy late afternoon skies.

Merlin House Sparrow-4225

After positioning itself it went on with the task of plucking feathers in frantic and excited fashion.

Merlin House Sparrow-4240

This took a while, and we decided to leave the bird alone. However, we returned to the spot a bit later and it was very casually eating without caring about us below it, so I snapped a couple more photos.

Merlin House Sparrow-4307

As you can see this was also after decapitation, and the raptor was going right into eating the neck and breast of the sparrow.

Merlin House Sparrow-4279

Nature may not always be pretty or particularly kind to some, but these predators have to survive, too. In fact, many young raptors that survive leaving the nest end up dying of starvation in their first year with inexperienced hunting methods and unrefined flight skills dooming them during the difficult winter season. Considering it made two kills on an already frightened and large group of passerines in a matter of minutes this bird looks to be doing very well.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator