Merlin male perched on moss covered vantage point

What do merlins eat?

The merlin requires extensive open ground for hunting.

How merlins hunt

It feeds chiefly on small birds caught in open country, though small mammals and insects are often important. Although much persecuted in the past by gamekeepers, merlins rarely take gamebirds.

The merlin hunts by perching in an elevated position to locate prey, usually on rocks or tree stumps, but it has also been recorded making use of grazing sheep! Once prey is sighted, it is usually caught after a short distance surprise attack, following a low flight from the perch. Other hunting techniques include prolonged persistent chasing and vertical stooping.

A mated pair frequently hunt co-operatively. Prey is usually caught in the air close to or on the ground. Only a small proportion of hunts are successful, with success rate varying with hunting method and prey. Prey is plucked and decapitated before being brought to the nest.

Food requirement is c. 35-50g per day.

Merlin, Female perched on mossy hummock