I have two feature classes that I need to merge to a single layer. There are ~10 common fields that I need to preserve and each of the two layers has some fields that are not shared.

I know that I could first DeleteField_management() each layer to have layers with identical fields and then do a simple merge but it seems like I should be able to use Merge_management() and a field mapping. I don't see how to include/exclude fields though, only how to transform them.

Inputs: file_1 with fields a,b,c,d. file_2 with fields c,d,e,f.

Desired output: file_3 with fields c,d.

  • Is your goal to achieve the best performance or are you just trying to figure out the "right" way to do things?
    – mikewatt
    Sep 1, 2020 at 17:53
  • It just seemed like there should be a straightforward way to do this that was cleaner than looping through everything to collect a list of fields to delete. Plus to use DeleteField I really need to copy the two layers and then delete from to avoid changing the input data. Sep 1, 2020 at 18:02

3 Answers 3


Creating layers with hidden fields is the way to go here, using field info objects. I have a function I regularly use for this. Then it's a matter of creating your two layers and using them as inputs in your merge.


import arcpy
fc1 = r"your\first\featureclass"
fc2 = r"your\second\featureclass"
mergeFc = r"your\output\merge\featureclass"

##function for creating layer with limited fields
def CreateFieldInfoLayer (fc, outLayer, flds, sql = None):
    fc = input feature class
    outLayer = name of output layer
    flds = fields that will be visible in new layer
    sql = option where clause to apply to layer
    #create layer with an unused name
    layer = "templayer"
    arcpy.MakeFeatureLayer_management (fc, layer)
    #get field info
    fldInfo = arcpy.Describe (layer).fieldInfo
    #set fields no in input list to hidden
    for i in range (fldInfo.count):
            fldName = fldInfo.getFieldName (i)
            if not fldName in flds:
                    fldInfo.setVisible (i, "HIDDEN")
    #create new layer with field info applied
    arcpy.MakeFeatureLayer_management (layer, outLayer, sql, None, fldInfo)
    #delete initial layer
    arcpy.Delete_management (layer)
    return outLayer

#get common fields
flds = [f.name for f in arcpy.ListFields (fc1)]
flds = [f.name for f in arcpy.ListFields (fc2) if f.name in flds]

#create layers with unshared fields hidden
lyr1 = CreateFieldInfoLayer (fc1, "lyr1", flds)
lyr2 = CreateFieldInfoLayer (fc2, "lyr2", flds)

arcpy.Merge_management(([lyr1, lyr2], mergeFc)
  • if I export the layer, will the hidden fields be included? the goal of deleting the extra fields is to keep things clean for a later user when they export. Sep 1, 2020 at 18:04
  • 1
    If you export via copy features or similar tools only visible fields will be in your new feature class. Sep 1, 2020 at 18:05

This is potentially less performant than Emil's answer, but much more concise: just merge everything indiscriminately, create 2 sets with the original field names, then delete the symmetric difference of those field names (belonging to either fc_a or fc_b, but not both).

merged = arcpy.Merge_management([fc_a, fc_b], 'merged')
fields_a = {field.name for field in arcpy.ListFields(fc_a)}
fields_b = {field.name for field in arcpy.ListFields(fc_b)}
arcpy.DeleteField_management(merged, list(fields_a ^ fields_b))
  • I was thinking exactly along these lines, just hoped there would be a built in or more performant way to do something that I thought would be a pretty common operation. Sep 1, 2020 at 18:39

so I just wanted to add the solution i ended up going with, a hybrid of a few different ones.

It's frustrating the the esri documentation for Merge_Management() doesn't actually say how it keeps/deletes fields but it will.

relevant code sample below.

pointfieldmappings = arcpy.FieldMappings()

point_keep_fields = ['RequestID','Prioritization_Bucket','Date_Initiated','Match_addr','X','Y',
for field in pointfieldmappings.fields:
    if field.name not in point_keep_fields and not field.required:
point_combined_results = point_table + "_all"
arcpy.Merge_management(inputs = [point_table, point_master],

the point_keep_fields variable could also be built using the a_fields ^ b_fields code, but in my case that wasn't exactly what I needed.

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