The Crested Caracara, Caracara cheriway, is the Beau Brummell of birds, a dandy with a certain air, sometimes called the Mexican Eagle. And yet he is a falcon, not an eagle, and merely a lowly scavenger.
Caracaras are mainly a Central and South American species, and in the United States, they are only found in small areas of Arizona and one tiny area in Florida, south of Lake Okeechobee, where I was lucky enough to find myself.
It is spring and they know it:
They are monogamous, staying together as a pair for many years. The mechanics of bird mating are not obvious: here is a good explanation for those of a prurient turn of mind!
I saw two different pairs, both feeding on small mammals. This pair were “sharing” a dead baby raccoon:
I am afraid that is not spaghetti that you see below.
And after dismembering it they took bits off to safer perches to eat:
They like open country, and this countryside (Dinner Island Ranch Wildlife Management Area) was amongst vast flat industrial-scale sugar-cane farms; they seemed to like hanging out in the sheds and barns nearby.
On the wing, they are acrobatic and elegant, with a wingspan of up to four feet:
The name “caracara” is supposedly from the Guarani Indian traro-traro, after the rattling vocalization that they produce when upset:
My excellent guide Bob Branham knows these parts like the back of his hand, and showed me many good things, especially raptors, some more of which I will show you in the next few weeks! And if you want to see his photos, way better than mine, here they are: