Yesterday I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee at the edge of the woods in my backyard. While I was standing there enjoying the forest, a bird swooped into the tree above my head. I couldn’t get a very good look at it, but from what I did see I could tell it was not a bird I normally see.
Taking a closer look, it was obviously a bird of prey. My first thought was a Sharp-shinned Hawk since it was a pretty small bird. Then it flew over to my walnut tree and I was able to get a better look.
It’s a Merlin! It’s a first for me in my yard. Merlins are small falcons that are only 10 inches tall. As I was watching it, I saw it pecking at something near its feet on the branch.
Food! I can’t tell what poor creature it was devouring, but it was probably a bird since that is their most common prey. According to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior:
True falcons are specialized for chasing and catching their prey in flight…They either grab their prey in flight or deliver a stunning blow to a flying bird with their feet and then quickly return to snatch the tumbling prey from the air…Falcons dispatch their prey quickly by biting through the neck and breaking it…
That sounds to me like the stuff that nightmares are made of.
I stood there for some time admiring this impressive bird. I guess I stood there a bit too long- it looked at me and decided to fly away.