Merlin ditching a carcass

Published on 21 July 2014 in Notes

This sequence of photos, taken on 5th March 2014 at Elmley, in Kent, illustrates some interesting Merlin behaviour. The Merlin concerned was first seen perched up on a post; it moved on when a Stoat approached the gate – the first image shows the bird in flight with a flat crop.


The Merlin crossed the reserve to another post and waited for about 20 minutes before returning to within 30 m of its original position with a prey item taken from a group of several hundred Common Starlings.


The Merlin chose an open but uneven grassy area (with several small ditches leading to a pool) in which to consume its prey.


At all times the Merlin was alert, stopping on one occasion to cover prey whilst a Marsh Harrier drifted overhead.


When finished, the Merlin flew off with the remains of the carcass and dropped it into the pool.


The ditching of the carcass seemed to me to be a deliberate ploy, although the function of that bahaviour (whether to make it unavailable to the Stoat, or other raptors) was not clear.

John Whitting [email protected]