We had a rare opportunity to photograph this little falcon while it scanned for small birds from its perch in a dead tree. Merlins are known for chasing their prey in rapid flight, so you don’t often get a chance for a decent photo of them.
Smaller than a Peregrine, but as swift and agile, Merlins prey on sparrow-sized birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even insects in a variety of habitats from beach shrub-grassy area to coniferous forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They are about the same size as the American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk), but are much stockier, with large pectoral muscles.
Merlins were a preferred falconry bird because of their size and relatively gentle disposition, especially favored by noble ladies in Medieval Europe. Even today, they are used to hunt small game birds like quail and doves, because of their ability to climb faster than the prey and then dive (stoop) down on them to knock them to the ground.