CRESTED CARACARA

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara cheriway)

The Crested caracara is part of the Falcon family, but it is not a fast flier. Instead, it relies on hunting on foot and has long legs and feet fit for that purpose. It is around 20 inches (50 cm) long. This bird has a black head, crest and nape, a white neck and breast, with the upper back and breast showing fine dark bands. the lower back and belly are black, and the rump and under tail white. The legs are orange. It has an area of bare skin around the base of the bill, which changes color with the ‘emotional’ state of the bird. When relaxed, it is reddish, but when threatened, it turns yellowish. The hooked bill itself is red at the base and light grey at the tip. Sexes are similar in color and size.

This bird is also called Northern crested caracara to distinguish it from the Southern crested caracara. The bird’s name is an onomatopoeia based on the bird’s call, and is of South American Indian origin.

Crested caracaras are found in the USA southern states such as Texas, Florida, and Arizona, which are at the north end of their range. The latter extends south to include northern South America and the Amazon River.

This raptor has an opportunistic diet, hunting its own live prey but also feeding on carrion such as road kill. Although smaller than the vultures, it is aggressive enough to chase them away from a carcass.

Northern Crested Caracara - King Ranch, Kingsville, TX - Sept. 13, 2016 - by Jodi Arsenault
Northern Crested Caracara – King Ranch, Kingsville, TX – Sept. 13, 2016 – by Jodi Arsenault

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