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Merlin Falco columbarius

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be fluctuating, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number approximately 3,000,000 individuals or 2,000,000 mature individuals (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2013). The European population is estimated at 32,000-51,600 pairs, which equates to 64,000-103,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 15% of the global range so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 427,000-687,000 mature individuals. The North American population is estimated at approximately 1,300,000 individuals or 867,000 mature individuals (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2013). Given the wide range of the population estimates, the global population is placed in the band 500,000-2,000,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The overall trend is likely to be fluctuating. This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (295% increase over 40 years, equating to a 41% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. In Europe the population size trend is unknown (BirdLife International 2015).

The use of chlorinated hydrocarbons between 1960s and 1970s caused some reproductive failure: eggshells in Europe showed 13% thinning and in North America 23% thinning (White et al. 2015). With the banning of these pesticides their impact has fallen as indicated by breeding densities and distributions, migration counts and wintering distributions and numbers. The species also suffers collisions with man-made objects (White et al. 2015). Population declines have also been attributed to loss of suitable habitat through overgrazing, insensitive management, and increased tourism disturbing nest sites. Predation by Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is also a threat (Mebs and Schmidt 2006).

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Mebs, T. and Schmidt, D. 2006. Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Partners in Flight Science Committee. 2013. Population Estimates Database, version 2013. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2015).

Rich, T.D.; Beardmore, C.J.; Berlanga, H.; Blancher, P.J.; Bradstreet, M.S.W.; Butcher, G.S.; Demarest, D.W.; Dunn, E.H.; Hunter, W.C.; Inigo-Elias, E.E.; Martell, A.M.; Panjabi, A.O.; Pashley, D.N.; Rosenberg, K.V.; Rustay, C.M.; Wendt, J.S.; Will, T.C. 2004. Partners in flight: North American landbird conservation plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.

White, C.M., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2015. Merlin (Falco columbarius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Falco columbarius. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Merlin (Falco columbarius) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Falconidae (Falcons, Caracaras)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size 500000-2000000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 23,100,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment