Every morning without fail my little buddies are out there flying overhead, looking at the chickens that are now biggern' they are, The Merlin Falcon, Falco columbarius has a 24 to 27 inch wingspan and a 12 to 13 inch body.
My free rangers are alot bigger now so the Merlies fly overhead and contemplate but realize the match is over for them. They still get very close actually landing on the ground near the pullets but my dog Cody chases them off. They return soon and browse the deli aisles of my homestead still hoping to find a weak link. A month ago they did nab a few when they were smaller. I was upset but realized that they have to eat too. I keep my small chickens penned up now until they are big enough and smart enough to stay out of the talons of the falcon. Merlins are actually cute birds. The males upperparts are slaty blue, purplish, or dark umber-brown streaked with black from the crown to shoulders and back. The tail is barred by dark umber-brown or blackish bands and is tipped in white. Underparts are cream to a rich buff with heavy longitudinally streaks of dark umber-brown or black coloration, except for the throat which is an unmarked white. The sides of the head are bluff with fine darker streakings. The forehead and line above the eye is white. The beak is bluish horn; the cere and feet are chromo yellow; the claws are black; and the iris is deep brown. The females are similiar to males in markings, the distinction from the male sex lays within the coloration. Her upperparts are dark brown, the neck is streaked with lighter brown and the tail is banded in yellow bars with a white tip. The merlin preys mainly on small birds of the ground and low vegetation such as small chickens, larks, swallows, and finches. They also eat small mammals such as small rabbits, rats, mice, and lizards, snakes, insects, and dragonflies. The relative proportions of the food are about 80% birds, 5% mammals and 15% insects. Merlin’s usually breed in areas that contain marshes, oaks, cedar and mesquite and enjoy open areas since it is easier to spot prey.
Merlin falcons have genealogy that traces back as far as five million years ago and today still have a broad population leading them to rank at the bottom of the endangered list with the status of ‘least concern.’ They are considered to have the most in common with the red-necked falcon due to their similar hunting habits but do not share much in common when it comes to overall appearance.