[CT Birds] prairie (?) Merlin

greg hanisek ctgregh at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 20 16:56:59 EST 2014

While birding in rural Watertown today  I observed a bird that showed characteristics of the "prairie" race or subspecies of Merlin, Falco columbarius richardsonii. The observation was quick, and the bright over-the-shoulder light no doubt enhanced the pale look typical of this race. Given those circumstances, I'll just suggest this could have been the "prairie" race, which would be a rare bird in New England.

I first heard some clucking, raptor type calls then quickly saw two birds tail chasing. One of them was so pale I momentarily thought it might be a white pigeon. However, the birds were twisting and turning, giving quick but good looks at the dorsal and ventral surfaces. They were both Merlins, one quite typical looking but the other a very pale adult with a light gray mantle. The bright light probably enhanced this appearance somewhat, but after seeing Merlins regularly at the Lighthouse Point hawk watch for the past 3 months, I would say this bird would have jumped out  as unusual. Unfortunately the birds remained in sight for probably less than a minute, so I'm just passing this along as a point of interest, especially given that we're in a time of year noted for western "vagrants" and in a period with some extreme weather to the west.

Greg Hanisek

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