Belongs to: birds of prey

Merlin Falco columbarius

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

The smallest British raptor, little bigger than a blackbird, catching its prey by surprise then aerial pursuit

Resident in Britainn, nesting near open areas with plenty of small birds, such as moors or large marshes

In Essex most often seen in winter, hunting over coastal marshes


Compact with broad, short wings; m. blue-grey above, rusty below, 25 cm; f. dark brown above, patterned below, 30 cm

Flies fast and low over ground, hoping to surprise its prey, then follows in twisting pursuit

© Alan Williams