The American Merlin, otherwise known as the Pigeon Hawk, is a small but fierce falcon. The Merlin will attack larger birds and often come away victorious. They resemble the Peregrine Falcon in coloration and habit.
The American Merlin measures 11-13 inches long and has a wingspan of 24-26 inches. The male is slate blue streaked black, their primaries barred white. The tail is tipped with white and is banded white or grey. The neck is a rusted white; the underside is also white, but streaked heavily with black. The female is dark brown with a white streaked neck and white, black streaked undersides. The tail is barred white or yellow and has a white tip. Juveniles resemble the females.
The Merlin attacks birds mostly, but may eat large insects, bats or rodents. Like the Peregrine, it takes most of its food in the air, off the dive.
Found worldwide, the Merlin can be found north to the treeline and south to northern South America. The Merlin nests in abandoned nests, on ledges, or builds its own stick nest. 4 to 5 eggs are laid, spotted brown. They are incubated by the female while the male hunts.
Merlins prefer forest edges near open spaces, providing for both nesting and hunting space. They are so common they have no special conservation status in the U.S.