Date: 2/1/18 2:14 am
From: Jonathan Berman <jonadayberman...>
Subject: [obol] Help with falcon ID
Back on January 7, when I was at Fernhill Wetlands, I saw a falcon I
believed to be a *suckleyi* merlin. It was only slightly larger than a
robin, which is what I first thought it was, with black/very dark head,
back, wings, and tail, and a breast streaked (or so I thought) with
brown-to-dusty rose. It seemed to have a broad-shouldered shape and a
short-ish tail. I went back to Fernhill on Jan 19 and found what appeared
to be the same bird in the same location (the trees just to the east of the
spur that leads to the Geiger Rd gate). I took a few low-quality photos of
what I again believed was a merlin.

Yesterday I finally looked at the photos and … now I’m confused. For
starters, I have never seen a merlin with a clearly demarcated
peregrine-like cap. After perusing merlin photos on the internet, I still
haven’t. Then there’s its breast, which turns out to be more barred than
streaked, something that seems unusual for a merlin. At the same time,
there's plenty of diversity in color and markings among merlins – I just
don’t know how far this extends.

The other unusual thing about this falcon was how inactive it was. On both
occasions, it changed perches a few times but did not stray more than 30
yards from where I initially observed it. This makes me wonder if it was
an escaped bird. It flew enough to verify that it was a falcon, but
it was difficult
to determine much about its flight and other behaviors. I did not hear any
vocalizations. I went back to Fernhill today (Jan 31) but couldn’t find
the bird; the area where I saw it before is now flooded.

So … could this bird still be a merlin, or is it something else … a
melanistic kestrel (if there is such a thing)?? … some falconer’s escaped
Australian hobby??

Here’s the photo link.


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