[CT Birds] A Question About Merlins

Stephen Broker LS.BROKER at COX.NET
Sun Oct 21 14:55:19 EDT 2012


From Steve Broker (Cheshire):

Joseph Budrow noted an apparent increase in Merlins in recent years and asked about count data.  Steve Mayo provided some information from Hawkwatch data.  Here, I provide a brief summary of Connecticut check-list information on Merlin and then offer some further data from the recently completed Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2007-2011) and from the Connecticut Christmas Bird Count during the period 1950-51 through 2011-12.

Linsley (1844) noted the presence of Merlin in Connecticut.  Merriam (1877) stated, "I am strongly inclined to believe that a few pairs do occasionally breeding Connecticut" and provides some interesting anecdotal information on the species.  Sage, Bishop, & Bliss (1913) describe Merlin as "a tolerably common spring and fall migrant" but do not make reference to breeding in Connecticut.  Zeranski & Baptist (1990) describe Merlin as "an uncommon coastal migrant from early September to mid-November" and note that "it is are in December and very rare from January through March."  Hanisek (2005) shows in bar graph form that Merlin is rare during spring/summer and cites no breeding records in Connecticut.     

Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2007-2011):
See Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2 on-line.  Merlin was confirmed as a breeder in three Massachusetts BBA2 Blocks and recorded as a probable breeder in two additional Blocks, as follows:

 (1) Great Barrington Block 08 (Berkshire County) CO(FL) [“fledged young”]


 (2) Easthampton Block 04 (Hampshire County) CO(NY) [“nest with young”; see also Bird Observer, December 2009:  Bird Sightings, July 1, 2009, a pair of adults with two young at Florence]


 (3) Edgartown Block 05 (Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes County) CO(NY) [“nest with young”; see also Bird Observer, December 2008:  Bird Sightings, July 3, 2008, a nesting pair of adults at Chappaquiddick]


 (4) North Adams Block 01 (Berkshire County) PR(C) [“courtship/copulation observed”]


 (5) Easthampton Block 95 (Berkshire County) PR(C) [“courtship/copulation observed”]


[Connecticut birders can reasonably expect Merlin to be confirmed as a breeder in the state in the not-too-distant future.]

 Connecticut Christmas Bird Count Data for Merlin, 1950-51 through 2011-12:

50-51   0


51-52   0

52-53   0

53-54   1

54-55   0

55-56   1

56-57   1

57-58   1

58-59   1

59-60   1

60-61   1

61-62   0

62-63   3

63-64   1

64-65   0

65-66   1

66-67   0

67-68   0

68-69   1

69-70   1

70-71   0

71-72   1

72-73   2

73-74   0

74-75   3

75-76   3

76-77   0

77-78   1

78-79   2

79-80   CW

80-81   1

81-82   CW

82-83   1

83-84   3

84-85   3

85-86   2

86-87   5

87-88   3

88-89   4

89-90   1

90-91   3

91-92   5

92-93   2

93-94   8

94-95   4

95-96   9

96-97   9

97-98   5

98-99   5

99-00   11

00-01   4

01-02   12

02-03   12

03-04   10  

04-05   12

05-06   27

06-07   13

07-08   21

08-09   11

09-10   14

10-11   10

11-12   21

Total = 282


Grouping these numbers into five-year periods (1950-51 through 1954-55, 1955-56 through 1959-60, etc.), Merlin has been counted on CT CBCs as follows:  1-5-5-3-6-6-8-15-22-39-55-86-(31 in the first 2 years of this last period).  Clearly, the early winter numbers of Merlin have increased in the past 63 years, with significantly increased numbers beginning in ca. the mid-1980s and escalating through the last two decades.  


   


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