[Tweeters] Merlin Research Project - 2016 Summary

Benjamin Johnson tiger80 at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 16 08:12:06 PST 2016

Hello All. Kim and I completed our fourth year of our merlin research project. This project is investigating merlin nest site characteristics, nesting success and density, site and pair fidelity, and annual movements.

In 2016 we followed 12 nests from incubation to fledging and/or dispersal, and an additional 8 other nests were discovered soon after fledging, for a total of 20 nests in the greater-Seattle area. This was a substantial increase over the previous season, when we followed only 6 nests from incubation to fledging. Nest territories were identified in Edmonds (3), Shoreline (2), Lake Forest Park (1), Seattle (4), Burien (1), Federal Way (2), Mercer Island (3), Bellevue (3), and Kirkland (1). Of the territories we were able to locate early enough to determine the nest tree, 13 of the nests occurred in Douglas fir trees, 1 in a Western white pine, and 1 in a subalpine fir. All nests occurred near the top of the nest tree.

Fifteen of the 20 nests successfully fledged young, producing at least 45 young merlins by our count, with an average of 3.0 fledglings per successful nest. At one of our Shoreline nest sites, we observed the pair lay and incubate a second clutch after an apparent predation event. This pair's second clutch produced two hatchlings. Unfortunately, one of the young merlins was found deceased at the base of the nest tree prior to fledging. The lone survivor from this nest continued to be cared for by the adults, and fledged approximately one month after the young had fledged from other nest sites in our study.

Missing from this year's nest count is the Victory Heights neighborhood, where Seattle's first known pair of nesting merlins was discovered in 2008. We searched the area extensively, but we were unable to locate the resident male. We found the long-time resident female from Victory Heights about three miles away from her usual nest territory, paired with another male. Unfortunately, their nest failed this year, after a prolonged incubation. We suspect that her new mate is infertile, since we had observed a similar prolonged incubation and nest failure at this same nest territory, but with a different female, during the 2014 breeding season.

In order to track individual merlin movements and relationships we have banded some merlins with blue or red color bands. This year we banded 8 adults and 10 of the juveniles. Each color band has a two-character code that identifies the merlin. Blue bands use two letters, stacked one on top of the other, read top to bottom. Red bands use two numbers, side-by-side, read left to right. These bands can be read with a spotting scope. If you happen to be watching a merlin

through your scope take a look at its legs when it stretches or moves around and you might see a colored band. We'd love to hear about any banded merlin sightings.

We'd like to thank everyone who contributed banded merlin sightings or merlin observations last year. Your observations helped us keep tabs on the progress of the nests, as well as helped us to locate some new territories. It was very helpful for our study and we appreciate all the reports we received.

Although the nesting season is now over until next spring, we appreciate reports of merlin observations year-round. All potential nest locations will be kept confidential. If you are so inclined to share your observations please contact Ben Vang-Johnson (bvjohnson87 at gmail dot com<mailto:bvjohnson87%20at%20gmail%20dot%20com>) or Kim McCormick (kim.mccormick at comcast dot net<mailto:kim.mccormick at comcast.net>).

Thank you,


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