Latin: Falco columbarius
Smallest falcon with an active and agile flight and rapid wingbeats. Adult male blue-grey, tail with black terminal band and dark primaries. Breast rusty-yellow with fine dark streaks and white throat. The adult female has brown-grey upperparts and heavily barred dark tail. Breast is buff-white and with bold dark streaks. Juveniles are very similar in appearance to adult female.
Found over upland, dry and wet heath and areas of raised and blanket bog. Also found nesting and hunting on the edges of conifer plantations.
Feeds on a variety of small passerines such as meadow pipit, wheatear, finches, starlings and young waders. Also takes insects such as moths and small rodents.
Uses old crow nests in trees especially in plantations or scattered pines in peatlands. Can nest on the ground. Lays 4-6 eggs in late April-May and incubates for 24-27 days and the young leave the nest after 26 days or so.
The current status of Merlin in Ireland is probably 100-200 pairs. There are up to 30 pairs in Northern Ireland, 19 pairs in Wicklow (Anthony McElheron) and 19 pairs in south Connemara (Paul Haworth).