Could this be a Merlin Falcon in North London?

Late this afternoon I looked in our garden and saw a wood pigeon sized bird sitting on the fence eating a bird - then on the grass was all the evidence, it was eating our resident collared dove which used to live in a nest in our old apple tree..

Got out the binoculars, and bird book - the closest we could identify in the book is a Merlin Falcon, however the bird had dark yellow / orange eyes, and Merlins seem to have black eyes. I've attached the best pictures I could take through the conservatory window.

I thought it could be a sparrowhawk, however it was definitely rusty coloured on the chest and lower face...  Can anyone say for sure what it is?

Location WD6 4QB Date: 24/04/12 18:30

  • Hi David. It's a male Sparrowhawk. :-)

    "Accept that some days you are the pigeon, and some days you are the statue."

  • Thanks - just googled Male Sparrowhawk, and you are right :)

  • In reply to David Plein:

    Hi David. All European falcons have dark eyes which is a useful clue when sorting out birds of prey. In the UK Merlins have, so far, tended to avoid urban areas and remain our rarest breeding falcon. This time of year nearly all will have returned to their moorland breeding sites.

    JBNTS

    Every day a little more irate about bird of prey persecution, and I have a cat - Got a problem with that?

  • In reply to John B (not the sloop):

    both sparrowhawks and collared doves are doing well in Greater London. Thankfully it wasn't feasting on one of our declining or threatened species such as house sparrow, blackbird or starling. If you're looking out for birds in your garden, you should soon swifts. They've been spotted crossing the channel but I haven't yet had any confirmation of them arriving in London - www.rspb.org.uk/london

  • In reply to Tim Webb:

    Merlin for comparison (January 2009)

    My gallery here

    Checkout the forums' Community HOMEPAGE for lots of interesting posts from other members.

  • In reply to Galatas:

    Incidentally a male Merlin was seen at the Lodge the other day.

  • In reply to Sunrider:

    Hopefully most Merlins are out on the moors on breeding territories at this time,although we did have a male chasing the linnets on a nearby lowland reserve last week.

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • I didn't have my mobile in hand, unfortunately, but I'm 100% sure that a FEMALE MERLIN sat next to me on my second floor, balcony fence in WEST THAMESMEAD, South London.

    I shouldn't be so surprised after there's a big bird population here (in our street and whole Thamesmead) including parakeets, ducks, gooses, swans, grey heron... But I am, especially after I saw the "where and when to see them" map here on the RSPB website.

    Location SE28 0LR Date: 27/07/21 17:20
  • How did you identify it? At this time of year, juveniles of many raptors are about. Young female sparrowhawks  are mistaken for buzzards and males are mistaken for merlins.

  • If anyone can upload a photo of a Merlin in someone's garden or next to them on a rail then I'd be very very very surprised.

    Always go for the most common answer - Sprawk.