The merlin is Scotland’s smallest breeding falcon. It has broad and short pointed wings and is extremely agile. Its outline is like a small kestrel. An adult male has grey-blue upper parts with a dark bar at the tip of tail and a speckled tan breast. While females are not distinctive they have darker brown upper parts than the kestrel.

In Scotland, this bird is a migrating resident spending the summer on moorland, where it raises its young mainly on meadow pipits and move to the coast in autumn and winter, where are renowned for catching fast moving prey, such as swallows.

Found breeding on open heather moorland from Galloway and Kintyre in the west, to as far north as Shetland, during the summer. Scottish birds will be joined for the winter on coastal marshes and dunes, by other merlins from Iceland and Norway.

Merlins suffered severely from insecticide pollution in the 20th century and although their numbers have recovered. They are still considered to be at risk carrying relatively large doses of heavy metal pollutants such as mercury.  It is a bird that benefits from heather moorland management.