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length: 25-30 centimeters
wingspan: 60-65 centimeters


180-230 grams


male: gray with dark stripes
female: dark brown with spots


maximum 13 years


songbirds such as pipits, thrush and finch


maturity: 1 year
number of eggs per nest: 4-5

  • Dut: Smelleken
  • Eng: Merlin
  • Fre: Faucon emerillon
  • Ger: Merlin
  • Dan: Dværgfalk
  • Nor: Dvergfalk
  • Fries: Stienfalk
  • Ital: Smeriglio
  • Lat: Falco columbarius
Merlin (young), -- Stichting Ornithologisch Station Voorne
Schepenweg 26
3233 CL OostvoorneStichting Ornithologisch Station Voorne


Merlins are the smallest falcon species in Europe. They eat mostly songbirds, which they follow during the migration. Most of their prey consists of birds such as pipits, larks, wheatears, finches and buntings. By flying rapidly and just above the ground, they surprise these small birds. They fly the last few meters like a nistle thrush, perhaps as extra camouflage. Sometimes, merlins chase their prey long enough to tire them out so they no longer can escape.

On Texel

Almost every winter, merlins are found on the island. They are often seen in the polder, hunting small birds. During migration, you see them flying over the dunes.

  • Distribution and habitat

    The merlin broods in northern Europe. In the autumn, it migrates south together with its prey. Some merlins spend the winter in the Netherlands, others migrate further south. You can see them in this country between September and mid May in polders, along river mouths and in the wadden region .