Falco columbarius

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

Federal Status: Not listed; Merlins are legally protected in New Hampshire. Possession and take (which includes harming, harassing, injuring and killing) is illegal.

Distribution: Expanding range southward in NH. Currently breeds in the north and at scattered locations in central and western parts of the state. Occurs statewide during migration which peaks during September and early October; occasionally winters along the seacoast or in southern suburban areas.

Description: 10-13 ½” long with a 21-27” wingspan. Males are blue-gray on top with black bands on a gray tail. Females are dusky brown on top with prominent streaks underneath and banded brown tails. Rapid wing beats help distinguish them from other hawks.

Voice: Both sexes give a shrill, “ki-ki-kee” call that lasts about 4 seconds.

Commonly Confused Species: Pigeons. Merlins are sometimes referred to as “pigeon hawks” because in flight they look similar to a pigeon.

Habitat: Breeds in coniferous or mixed forests near open areas such as lakes and fields for foraging. May breed in urban or residential areas.

Nesting: Merlins begin reproducing at 2 years old and use old nests made by other raptors, or crows, located near water. They typically nest once per year in May or June and females lay 4 or 5 eggs which hatch after 28-32 days of incubation.

Diet: Small birds are the staple of their diet but Merlins will also prey on small mammals and insects.