(Pen, Gouche,Acrylic on A2 Brown Paper)
Status: Local summer visitor to uplands throughout Ireland. Widespread winter visitor at lowland sites from October to April.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to its small breeding population. The European population is considered to be Secure.
Identification: A bird of prey (raptor) with a short hooked bill. A smallest species of falcon, similar to Peregrine in shape, with relatively narrow wings and a medium length tail. Nimble in flight, will pursue its prey for extended periods. Fleeing prey, for example Meadow Pipits, will occasionally associate with humans to avoid Merlin's which are in close pursuit. Males and females have different plumage's. Adult males have blue-grey upper-parts with a wide dark band on the end of the tail and dark outer wing feathers, the underparts are finely barred; the chest is orangey yellow. Females are brown-grey above with a number of dark thick bands on its tail, the underparts are finely barred. Both sexes show a faint moustachial strip. Juvenile birds are very similar to females.
Call: Silent except in the area of its nesting site. A series of sharp accelerating notes.
Diet: Small birds, such as Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Prey is caught by surprise attack from a low gliding flight close to the ground, by persistence pursuit or from a vertical dive.
Breeding: A rare breeding bird in Ireland. Nests on the ground on moorland, mountain and blanket bog. Also nests in woodland and has taken to nesting in forestry plantations adjacent to moorland. More Merlins are found in the west of the country but they are scattered across the midlands and the Wicklow Mountains also hold good numbers.
Wintering: Much more widely distributed in the winter, than in the breeding season. Merlins move away from high ground at this time of the year and can often be seen on the coast, where concentrations of other birds are attractive as prey species.
Where to see: A difficult species to see. Most birdwatchers will see them over wetlands in the winter months whilst looking at waders and wildfowl. Hill-walkers also stand a chance of spotting them during the breeding season
Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey