[Tweeters] Urban Merlins

Bud Anderson falconresearch at gmail.com
Sat Apr 21 12:51:03 PDT 2018

Lynn Oliphant was the first person to document Merlins moving into a North
American city back in 1971 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The next year they found 2 pairs and by 1982, there were 16. Lynn estimates
that there are now around 30-40 pairs in that city.

A similar Merlin expansion also took place about that time in Edmonton,

Here in Washington, nesting Merlins had always been very rare despite many
experienced raptor people looking for them for decades.

There is very little historic information about them for our state.

That all started to change in the 1980's thanks to people like Tom Gleason,
Jim Fackler and others who started finding nesting pairs on the Olympic
Peninsula and up the Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers among other locations.

The first known city pair that I am aware of was found in a neighborhood in
Bellingham in 2000.

The number increased to at least four pairs in Bellingham over the next few

Then Merlins started a slow southward "colonization", showing up over the
next few years in Burlington, Mt. Vernon, Anacortes, Stanwood, Everett,
Edmonds and finally Seattle.

Fortunately, we have had Ben Vang-Johnson and Kim Mc Cormick documenting
and studying this expansion in Seattle since 2013.

This phenomenon of raptors moving into cities is, of course, not just
limited to Merlins.

We first saw it in Red-tailed Hawks after the I-5 freeway opening back in
the mid-60's, Bald Eagles showed up in Kirkland and Seward Park shortly
afterwards, peregrines arrived in 1994, and who knows when the first
Cooper's Hawks started to breed in Seattle. Butch Olendorff had a pair on
the hillside west of the Duwamish Slough in the late 1960's.

Ospreys are likely to have been nesting on Lake Washington even further
back in time.

This colonization involving raptors moving into urban habitats is happening
all across our continent.

It is also underway in Europe with goshawks and sparrowhawks also moving
into cities.

So Merlins are likely to keep increasing in numbers locally, and Seattle
should be no exception.

How wonderful is that?
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