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GAP Analysis Predicted Distribution Map

Merlin (Falco columbarius)

Species Code: FACO

Click to enlarge Range map

= Core Habitat
= Marginal Habitat

Breeding Range Map
The green area shows the predicted habitats for breeding only. The habitats were identified using 1991 satellite imagery, Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA), other datasets and experts throughout the state, as part of the Washington Gap Analysis Project. Habitats used during non-breeding months and migratory rest-stops were not mapped.

Metadata (Data about data or how the map was made)

Click to enlarge distribution map

Map with Breeding Bird Atlas records

Other maps & Information:
  • Breeding Bird Atlas
  • NatureMapping observations
    during breeding season
  • NatureMapping observations
    throughout the year

Two distinct subspecies are known to nest in Washington: Black Merlin (F. c. suckleyi): This subspecies is a rare breeder in coastal forests along the outer coast, Hood Canal, and Puget Sound. Scattered spring and summer records suggest current breeding in this area. There have been few reported nests in recent years. One was near Cascade Lake in Moran State Park, one was near the Hoh River Ranger Station in Olympic National Park in 1986 and 1987, another was along the Bogachiel River in 1990, and another was in the Lake Quinault area. Taiga Merlin (F. c. columbarius): This subspecies is a rare breeder in high-elevation forests that mimic boreal conditions. They are confined to the Cascades and northeastern Washington. There is only one record from the BBA period, of a single adult in mid-summer flying over old growth north of Mount Adams.

All habitat in Washington was considered the peripheral area of use because Merlins are apparently so rare here. Black Merlin: Good habitats in the peripheral areas of use were all mid- and late-seral coniferous forests in the Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Puget Sound Douglas-fir zones, along the outer coast and through the San Juan Islands. Taiga Merlin: Good habitats in the peripheral areas of use were all conifer forests in the Alpine/Parkland, Sub-alpine Fir, Mountain Hemlock, and Silver Fir zones, along the Cascade crest and in the high, rugged terrain of the Northeast and Northwest Cascades regions, and of northeastern Washington.

The status of Merlins in Washington is very much a mystery. Our models are based on very limited data. It is likely that both the Black and Taiga Merlin occur as rare breeders at scattered locations throughout their appropriate range, with core populations further north. The Taiga Merlin has been said to breed in the Blue Mountains, but no supporting records have been listed. In fact, some consider these birds to be migrants. Where it does nest, the Taiga Merlin prefers to nest near forest openings. Throughout its entire range, very few Black Merlin nests have been reported. Merlins are known to utilize old nests of other birds (such as the crow, raven, or hawk), or natural cavities. There have been unconfirmed reports of the Black Merlin nesting at Bumping Lake, but the location seems unlikely for this coastal subspecies.

Translated from the Washington Gap Analysis Bird Volume by Uchenna Bright
Text edited by Gussie Litwer
Webpage designed by Dave Lester