Smart birds shut up when the Merlin is around.
The Merlin is a bird-eater. I can understand a songbird’s reluctance to sing in his presence…could cost him his life.
The Merlin is a pigeon-sized falcon with a taste for other birds. He eats moths and dragonflies, but other birds are preferred. Flying low, fast and straight he surprises his prey at the last moment. If his prey manages to get away, the Merlin will tail-chase him down.
He is a swift, efficient hunter and ‘armed’ to kill.
I was tagging along with the early morning warbler-watching group through Lake Park in Milwaukee. It became disappointingly bird-quiet early in the walk, but no one knew why. Then we discovered the Merlin sitting stately atop a snag on the other side of the ravine. From there, he had a 360-degree view of everything.
He wasn’t announcing his presence, but he wasn’t hiding either. He preened and stretched until every feather was in place and the rising sun had warmed his back.
Then glancing in all directions, he turned to warm his front side too. He was well aware of his place in the food chain and had little to fear. His presence kept all the other birds in hiding. The walking warbler watchers weren’t worried about not seeing other birds…rather they accepted the Merlin as a fortunate close encounter instead.
The Merlin posed in place for 10-minutes; long enough for everyone to get a good view of him and as many pictures as they wanted. Then, for reasons of his own, he left. Within minutes the warbler activity increased…say, minus one?