Crested Caracara
Caracara cheriway
The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is a member of the falcon family despite its quite non falcon-like behavior and appearance. It occurs in Florida, Texas and Arizona and southward into the tropical areas of Central and South America. A similar species, the Southern Caracara (Caracara plancus) occurs all the way south to the Tierra del Fuego area of South America. The Crested Caracara will often feed on snakes, lizards, and other live prey, but it will readily feed on carrion as well. This species has often been referred to as "Mexican Eagle" and is, in fact, thought to be the bird depicted on the original national emblem and flag of Mexico. The modern Mexican emblem and flag now show a Golden Eagle. The birds shown in the image at right were feeding on a dead cow in a Texas pasture and present what might be considered a typical Texas view of this species. Note the bulging crops of both birds. This photo was taken in June, 2000, from a blind on a private ranch in Kenedy Co., Texas with a Canon EOS 3 and Canon EF600mm F4L lens from a Gitzo tripod on Fuji Provia film. This particular photo won 1st place in the birds of prey division of the Valley Land Fund 2000 Photo Contest.
The sunset shot of two caracaras was taken in February, 2002, in Kenedy Co., Texas.
The bird at right, as well as the next shot, was photographed in February 2002, also in Kenedy Co., Texas with a Canon EOS 1V and Canon EF 500 mm F4L IS lens on Fuji Velvia film.
Crested Caracaras have a raspy, grunting vocalization when they are in contact with one another. Often I have seen a bird sit on a limb and give this call over and over as if warning others of a territorial claim. During the vocalization the bird thrusts its head sharply upward, and sometimes the head it thrust so far that the bird has its head upside down over its back for the split second. On a morning in May, 2002, I was in a blind near by some feeding caracaras and was able to get some shots of the bird seemingly looking at me upside down as it called.
Immature Crested Caracaras have pink facial skin, dull colored legs, brown backs and more streaks on the breast than adults.
A caracara with wings spread wide as it prepares to land on the ground in April, 2002.
Crested Caracaras feed on carrion much of the time. Here four birds pick at the carcass of a feral hog.
An adult Crested Caracara preparing to land.
The two Crested Caracaras at right are feeding on a Western Coachwhip. This was also a digital capture in May, 2006.
The bird at right was preening its tail.
The next two shots shown here of a Crested Caracara in flight were taken in Hidalgo Co., Texas, in April, 2007.