An abundant tandem repeat has been cloned from genomic DNA of the merlin (Falco columbarius). The cloned sequence is 174 bp in length, and maps by in situ hybridization to the centromeric regions of several of the large chromosomes within the merlin karyotype. Complementary sequences have been identified within a variety of falcon species; these sequences are either absent or in very low copy number in the family Accipitridae. The cloned merlin repeat reveals highly polymorphic restriction patterns in the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). These polymorphisms, which have been shown to be stably inherited within a family of captive peregrines, can be used to differentiate the Greenland and Argentina populations of this endangered raptor species.