The Merlin is a very special bird. One of the smallest ‘True Falcons’, it stands outside the usually assumed grouping of the others, and also prefers a habitat which differs markedly from them. While most falcons are found in warmer climes, the Merlin is a northern dweller, occupying a circumpolar range at the fringes of the Arctic. Only the Gyrfalcon has a range which extends further north, though sub-species of that remarkable traveller the Peregrine Falcon also breed in the Arctic. With its fast, agile flight the Merlin was popular with medieval falconers who thrilled at its ‘ringing’ flight in pursuit of larks.
Today, changes in legislation mean the species is much less often seen as a falconry bird. It might be assumed that with its vast range the Merlin has been well studied, but nowhere is it common, and much of its habitat is difficult to reach and work in, though the falcon’s recent enthusiasm for urban-dwelling in North America has made it more accessible and its biology and ecology have become better understood. This book draws together what is currently known about this elusive, but beautiful and enchanting species.