Distribution Britain 693 (+15.9%) Ireland 158 (-35.5%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 1,300 Ireland 120
European status: 13,000 (6% in Britain and Ireland =5)
British population trend: doing quite well
How likely are you to record it? 46 squares (1.0%) Ranked 116= [76=]
This dashing little falcon of moorland was an easy target for gamekeepers with pole-traps. The few lowland breeding sites in England had been lost almost 150 years ago. The populations elsewhere in Britain were reduced except for the very north of Scotland and, possibly, Wales. They were back on Exmoor and Dartmoor by 1920 but the overall population did not recover like the other raptors and the birds were hit hard by chemical pollution. The new Atlas confirmed a recent retreat in Ireland and the loss of most birds from the south-west of England and some from Wales. However breeding birds are now using the safer abandoned nests of crows in forestry rather than nesting on the ground and there are definite increases in some areas for instance Northumbria. The Irish population may still be decreasing but, overall, the British population increased between 1983/84 and 1993/94 particularly, more than doubling in northern England. Possible country totals are Scotland 800, England 400 and Wales 100 pairs. Has the Merlin's time come? Let's hope so!
Rebecca, G.W. & Bainbridge, I.P. 1998 Bird Study: 45, 172-181.
Williams, I.T. & Parr, S.J. 1995 Welsh Birds: 1, 14-20.
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead