Falcons on a Date

In early April, the merlin falcons dated. They dove in death-defying ways to secure their territory, and the queen perched on her throne to survey her land. I figured I would need to wait for a half an hour or more before anything happened. I thought we would meet in the Western Washington University parking lot and hike into the nearby arboretum to find the birds.

How wrong I was! The falcons nested in a Douglas fir beside a building, and the action began immediately.

The female sat on the top of the tree. With my naked eye, she appeared black, but when using binoculars or a spotting scope, I noticed a brown and white checked pattern on her chest and wings. Every so often, she let out a long call to attract a mate, “Keee keee keee!”

After awhile, three crows gathered around her, squawking. About the same size as the crows, she dove sharply at them until they backed off. She stood her ground and settled down again obscured by branches

Soon after, the male merlin appeared. With the scope trained on him, I saw his bright orange feet. Shorter than his female counterpart, he tried to woo her. He used his scrutinizing eyes, agile flight, and sharp talons to capture a songbird. Presenting it to his potential mate, she devoured it. Then, they danced in the sky, waltzing around us, until they perched again in different trees and called to one another again.

He’ll continue to try impressing her with food and sky-dancing. If he’s lucky, she’ll choose his nest platform and little princes and princesses will hatch in late May or early June. This observation happened because of a citizen-scientist who informed Team Merlin about his sighting. Thanks to Quinn for making this experience possible!

If you see merlin falcons in your area, call David Drummond at (360) 671-3804 or email him at merlinology@hotmail.com.


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