Caracaras: carnal carnivores

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 namecaracara” 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:

PS I am off to Baja California in the hope of seeing both blue and grey whales. I will report back in two weeks, and I will go silent till then..




One thought on “Caracaras: carnal carnivores”

  1. Definitely a very interesting bird with a bill for scavenger business & large talons. I wonder why it has a blue area at the tip of its bill? And no, I didn’t think that that was spaghetti!😬 Their vocalization almost sounded like a bird burp. The link about mating was interesting. Now I’ll be looking through Brad B’s photos. I hope you see lots of Blue & Gray Whales…you seem to be in all the right places to get a wonderful view of wildlife, Moira. Looking forward to your photos!


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