by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
PAWS Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee examined this year's Merlin shortly after she was admitted.
Last summer, a pair of
Merlins caused a stir in a North Seattle neighborhood when they took up
residence in an abandoned crow nest. It was the first documented
instance of these small falcons nesting within the Seattle city limits.
Neigbhors closely watched the birds for most of the breeding season,
and when one of their five chicks fell from the nest, he was
immediately scooped up and brought to the PAWS Wildlife Center.
Fortunately, the young Merlin was uninjured, but there was no practical
way to return him to the nest which was about 80 feet up in a cedar
After consulting with local falcon
experts, we decided to reunite the fallen Merlin with his family when
his siblings began to fledge from the nest. After about 10 days, the
young at the nest site began to take short flights. It wasn't long
before the parent birds were delivering food to their hungry brood in
trees throughout the neighborhood. As planned, we reintroduced the
young Merlin that had fallen from the nest at this time. He was placed
on the roof of a garage near a tree that his siblings had been
frequenting. Everything went well and the bird was reintegrated into
his family and under the care of his parents within a few days after
Fortunately, the Merlin was injury free.
This summer the same pair of adult
Merlins nested again in North Seattle, not far from the 2008 nest site.
They once again hatched five chicks, and were under regular
surveillance by nest watchers and interested neighbors. When one of the
chicks made her first attempts at flight in late June, she crashed into
a cedar tree and plummeted to the ground. Fearing that she might have
been injured, concerned citizens quickly gathered the bird up and
brought her to PAWS.
On admission, the Merlin was a little
shaken up but she had no apparent injuries. The decision was made to
follow the same plan that was used in 2008 to reunite the bird with her
family. I kept in close contact with Barbara Deihl who was monitoring
the nest site daily. Two days after the fledgling Merlin was admitted,
Barbara reported that the other four youngsters had flown from the nest
and their parents were now delivering prey to them all around the
On the morning of July 3, I placed the
Merlin in a transport carrier and drove her back to North Seattle. A
small group of neighbors had gathered to witness the bird's return, and
a raptor researcher named Jack Bettesworth joined me at the release
site to federally band the Merlin. I placed a hood on the Merlin during
the banding process to help lower her stress level. She stayed
relatively calm as Jack secured the numbered aluminum band on her left
leg. Once the banding was complete, it was time to return the little
raptor to her family.
The young Merlin was placed on the roof of a garage at her release.
The young Merlin remained in vocal contact with her family as she worked her way higher up into the trees.
Prior to my arrival, Barbara had
identified a fir tree in which the Merlin's siblings and parents had
been spending a lot of time. In a repeat of the events of 2008, I
removed the bird's hood and placed her on the roof of a garage next to
the tree. She was a little bit disoriented at first, but after getting
her bearings she walked up to the peak of the roof and began to
vocalize. One of the Merlin's siblings vocalized in return from the
nearby tree. As the two birds chattered back and forth, a vocalizing
adult flew in from the south and landed in the same tree as the
reintroduced Merlin's sibling. The youngster on the roof of the garage
began to run back and forth excitedly, periodically opening her wings
and preparing to launch, but obviously unsure whether or not she could
cover the distance to the tree.
Eventually the Merlin did get up the
courage to fly from the roof. She landed about 15 feet up in a
deciduous tree. She then made a series of shorter flights, working her
way ever-higher. Before long, she was in the same tree as her family,
and within about an hour of being released a meal had been delivered to
her by one of her parents. She was last spotted (and positively
identified) on July 18. She had lost the remainder of her down and
appeared to be a healthy and strong young Merlin.
PAWSwalk 2009 is Coming!
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