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A Merlin Family Reunion



This fellow looked a little grumpy when we first met him. But that’s because he was prematurely bumped out of the nest by his larger siblings, and he had tumbled some 60 feet to the ground. Fortunately, he was able to slow his fall enough with his still-developing flight feathers to avoid serious injury. But a city street is not a safe place for a young Merlin not yet able to fly, so one of the bird’s concerned human neighbors snatched him up and brought him to PAWS.


These ejections from the nest are fairly common with Merlins and other small birds of prey. Returning the youngsters to their nest is a risky proposition. The nests are usually very high and difficult to reach, and if you do manage to reach them your presence may cause the remaining babies to panic and jump out prematurely themselves. Rather than risk that possibility, we keep the wayward youngsters in our care and return them to their families when they begin to fly.


That’s exactly what we did with the nestling Merlin. After spending ten days at the wildlife center, he had lost most of his remaining down, and his flight feathers were nearly full grown. His siblings at the nest had gone through a similar transformation, and they were beginning to make short flights around the neighborhood. It was now possible to reunite our patient with his family simply by returning him to the neighborhood, rather than the nest. On July 3, I placed the fledgling on the roof of a two story building within view of the nest site.


After I climbed down, the Merlin walked up toward the peak of the roof. He then paused and began to call.


It wasn’t long before he received an answer, coming from a line of trees to the west. Both of his parents were perched in a tree top just 25 yards away. He called once more, and again they answered.


I left the family to enjoy their reunion in peace. An email from the homeowner later in the day confirmed that the young Merlin had left the roof and rejoined his family in the trees.



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