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My Neighbors, the Merlins

May 10, 2017

My Neighbors, the Merlins

- as seen by -

Jonathan C. Slaght Jonathan C. Slaght

Downy feathers loft about like snowflakes as I step outside, blowing rudderless across my deck to catch in the cedars. I look up expectantly and find the merlin where I thought he’d be: hunched on a perch above, plucking feathers from a recently-caught yellow-rumped warbler.

I have grown accustomed to this sight: he and his mate are nesting in a pine nearby. He was here alone all winter; she showed up sometime in March.

Merlins are small, aggressive falcons. They chase their prey—primarily songbirds—through the air, sometimes coming at them from below to disorient and confuse, coaxing the birds further and further away from cover. The merlins pursue at a steady, furious pace; their sharp wings rowing like oars across the open sky.

The merlin pair that nests here usually ignores me. But when they don’t, they gaze down with indifference at the omnipresent, bearded gawker who snaps photos of their private lives. I feel like James Stewart with my Rear Window cracked wide enough to extend a lens and document the goings on of these neighbors. I see murders. Lots of them. Yesterday a house sparrow. Today the yellow-rumped warbler.

The merlins are there almost every time I go outdoors: roosting in the elm by my front door, feeding on the telephone pole in the backyard, or dive-bombing the bewildered mallard grazing under my bird feeder.

I seek wildness and am comforted to find it so close to home. Eventually, the eggs in the merlin nest will hatch, the chicks will fledge, and the birds will move on. I hope next year they come back. Yes, they can be loud, and they sometimes leave blood in my driveway, but they are good neighbors nonetheless.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Follow Jonathan Slaght’s merlin-watching on Twitter @MplsMerlin. Slaght is a regular contributor to Wild View. The newest edition of his writing skills, Across the Ussuri Kray, is great for everyone’s collection.

Canon 7D Mark II

Minneapolis, USA Map It


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May 11, 2017 at 9:34 am

I like bird

Doris Kordt
May 14, 2017 at 2:04 am


Gail Braun
July 29, 2018 at 8:40 pm

These Marlins have taken over our yard and fly at us every time we go out in our yard. We find half eaten little birds and bird parts all over our yard and so do our neighbors. We have no more other birds at all. Our yard is like a morgue. What can we do to get these terrible birds to move away from our property? We are desperate!