Late one evening in July, a young man and woman were driving on Thane Road. They noticed something that looked like a bird in the middle of the road, stopped to investigate and found it was a raptor.
They picked it up and called the Juneau Raptor Center’s pager to report it. The bird was brought to a member’s house and put in a kennel. The next morning it was examined, treated and identified as a merlin (falco columborius). A merlin is a genus of falcon.
It was very passive which is unusual for this species of bird. However, by the afternoon it became more active so it was given a small amount of food.
It was then moved to an outdoor enclosure to make sure it could fly, which it did immediately. After another day of being in the enclosure and eating, it was determined that it could be released. The merlin was taken to a place on Thane Road, close to where it was first seen, and released. It flew strong and fast into the closest trees and disappeared among the branches.
6 Fun Facts About Merlins:
1. They use surprise attacks to bring down small songbirds and shorebirds.
2. Sometimes they will hunt in pairs. One bird flushes the flock from below. The second bird takes advantage of the confusion to attack. This tactic for the merlins is generally very successful.
3. You can usually tell them from larger falcons by their rapid wing beats and overall dark tones.
4. Medieval falconers called them “lady hawks” because noblewomen used them to hunt Skylarks.
5. Merlins don’t build their own nests. They take over abandoned nests of other raptors or crows.
6. Merlin populations have improved since the ban on DDT was enforced.
• Janet Capito is a Juneau Raptor Center volunteer and board member. To reach the Raptor Center, call their message phone at 586-8393 or email at email@example.com. If you find an injured raptor, call JRC’s pager at (907) 790-5424.