Discover the Dales

Bird Watching


The merlin is a relatively rare bird of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. At the last count in the 1993/94 survey it was estimated that there was only between 40 to 50 pairs found in the National Park.

Although the UK’s smallest bird of prey, it is a very competent hunter. Being small, fast and agile the merlin is able to hover in the breeze discreetly, before it descends fiercely on its prey – usually small birds such as the pipet.

The most common spots to see a merlin is amongst the heather moorland and moorland fringes. It is a ground nesting bird, finding cover under the tall heather.

The size of the merlin varies quite greatly as does their appearance. The male merlin’s usually has a blue–grey back, the under feathers are white with an orange tint or black to reddish brown. The female merlin’s are usually a brownish-grey to dark brown on their back.

Merlin Facts

  • The merlin is the smallest falcon in the UK
  • The survival rate amongst young Merlin’s remains high, with 3 merlin’s per nest reaching breeding age.


Merlin, Yorkshire Dales