This Merlin Hawk specimen was prepared by Leora Simpson (1856-1951) in September 1882. The local post-mistress for many years, Miss Simpson appears in the 1891 Census and lists her occupation as “taxidermist”. Part of a collection of over 100 bird specimens, this piece is one of the few tagged with a name and date. The entire collection was given to the Gagetown School upon her death. Hundreds of students will remember the cases and cabinets of birds that were kept in the library of the school. In 1997, the school passed the collection of Queens County Heritage. More details about the hawk:
Though sometimes referred to as the Merlin Hawk, this bird is more commonly known as the Merlin. An actual falcon instead of a hawk, the Merlin is commonly found in coniferous forests and grasslands. The Merlin can be found all over North America either as a summer, permanent, or winter resident. The exceptions to its range over the continent is the eastern non-coastal United States and northernmost Alaska, Nunavut, and Quebec. A summer resident of the Queens County area, the bird is known to be found in several color variations throughout its range. The birds displays signs of sexual dimorphism with the male and female differing with respect to their coloring of their plumage. The male has a bluish black wings and back, while the female has more of a dark brown coloring. The ventral side of the female is a much duller version of the beige speckled with dark brown coloring of the male. The head of both genders possesses a cap similar to the color of its wings and back. The rest of its head is similar to the coloring of its ventral side. Averaging in length at 28-33 cm, with a wingspan of 58-66 cm and a weight of 162 grams, the Merlin is considered to be quite tame and is known to be sometimes found in cities during the winter.
The Merlin’s diet normally consists of small birds, mammals, and large insects. The Merlin, as a bird of prey, is known to fly very close to the ground and to grab its prey with great speed. This sets tn apart from other falcons and hawk in the sense that it will not fly high above the ground and then dive in order to catch its prey. A monogamous and solitary nester, the Merlin is not known to build its own nests. Normally, it will use abandoned crow, magpie, and hawk nests to lay its eggs. These nests will usually be found about 4.5-11 meters above the ground. The nest will be relined by the female, and 2-7 white eggs about 4.1 cm long with reddish brown markings will be laid in it. These eggs will be incubated by the female for about 28-32 days. After hatching, the young will remain in the nest for an additional 25-35 days. During this time they will be fed by both sexes. Only one brood of young is produced per year. The bird is considered to be quite uncommon. This is due to the increased use of pesticides and heavy metals that have entered the food chain.