The nearest relative of the Merlin is the well-known Pigeon-Hawk (F. columbarius) of North America, which takes its name from its resemblance to the Wild Pigeon, this resemblance extending not only to the shape and poise, but to the rapid flight of this now rare bird. It is slaty blue above, with a broken collar of buffy on the neck, and creamy buff or ochraceous below, where, except on the throat, it is streaked with blackish. The closed tail is crossed by more than one black band. The Pigeon-Hawk is found throughout the whole of North America from the Arctic Ocean southward to the West Indies, Central America, and northern South America, breeding mainly to the northward of the United States except in the Rocky Mountain area, where it is a not uncommon summer resident. Its food consists mainly of small or medium-sized birds, insects, and occasionally small mammals. “Among insects the dragon-flies are favorite morsels for this. Hawk, and the apparent ease with which it captures these nimble-winged insects demonstrates better than anything else its remarkable power of flight.
The nesting site is very varied. In some instances the bird deposits its eggs on a ledge or in a cavity on the face of a cliff, in others in the hollow of trees or in nests made among their branches, and occasionally in the deserted nests of other birds.”FISHER. These birds lay four or five eggs, which resemble in coloration those of the Duck-Hawk.
Other Species. A darker race of the Pigeon-Hawk known as the Black Merlin (F. c. Suckleyi) inhabits the northwest coast from California to Sitka, Alaska. Very little is known of its habits, and its nest and eggs have not been found. Richardson’s Merlin (F. Richardsonii) is a slightly larger and much paler-colored bird than the Pigeon-Hawk. It is found in the interior and western plains of North America, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast, and thence northward to British America, migrating southward in winter to Texas and Arizona. Like the Black Merlin, very little is known regarding its habits, though its nests and eggs are similar to those of the Pigeon-Hawk.