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© Stefan Johansson

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

The UK’s smallest falcon is an elusive bird with a sparse population. To be found in the north eastern Lakeland fells and the north Pennines with , just 50 breeding pairs in the county.



Habitat- usually a ground nesting bird, may make use of old crows nests. They like open heather moorland .

Appearance – size 25 –30cm.(smaller than a kestrel) female larger than the male.
Flight is direct and dashing, rapid wing beats followed by short glides often low to the ground and shows great agility chasing small birds

Voice – Silent unless excited when it says ”kek kek kek”

Food – small birds, mammals, lizards and insects, occasionally game chicks

Population changes/ conservation – declined due to persecution by gamekeepers, loss of heather habitat and the effect of pesticides in the 1950s and 60s. Nnow specially protected, survival is helped by specific conservation areas protecting  heather from overgrazing, and reduction in forestry plantation taking over preferred territory.