Southern crested caracara
The southern crested caracara, also known as the southern caracara or carancho, is a bird of prey in the
family Falconidae. As presently defined, the southern crested caracara is restricted to central and southern
South America. It formerly included the northern crested caracara (C. cheriway) of the southern United
States, Mexico, Central America and northern South America, and the extinct Guadalupe caracara (C. lutosa)
as subspecies. As its relatives, it was formerly placed in the genus Polyborus.
It has a total length of 50-65 cm (20-26 in) and a wingspan of 120-132 cm (47-52 in). Weight is 0.9-1.6 kg
(2-3.5 lbs), averaging 1,348 g (2.972 lb) in 7 birds from Tierra del Fuego. Individuals from the colder
southern part of its range average larger than those from tropical regions (as predicted by Bergmann's rule)
and are the largest type of caracara. In fact, they are the second largest species of falcon in the world by
mean body mass, second only to the gyrfalcon. The cap, belly, thighs, most of the wings and tail-tip are
dark brownish, the auriculars, throat and nape are whitish-buff, and the chest, neck, mantle, back,
uppertail-coverts, crissum (the undertail coverts surrounding the cloaca) and basal part of the tail are
whitish-buff barred dark brownish. In flight, the outer primaries show a large conspicuous whitish-buff
patch ('window'), as in several other species of caracaras. The legs are yellow and the bare facial skin
and cere are deep yellow to reddish-orange. Juveniles resemble adults, but are paler, with streaking on the
chest, neck and back, grey legs, and whitish, later pinkish-purple, facial skin and cere.
It can be separated from the similar northern caracara by its more extensive barring on the chest, brownish
and often lightly mottled/barred scapulars (all blackish in northern), and pale lower back with dark barring
(uniform blackish in northern). Individuals showing intermediate features are known from the small area of
contact in north-central Brazil, but intergradation between the two species is generally limited.
A bold, opportunistic raptor, the southern crested caracara is often seen walking around on the ground
looking for food. It mainly feeds on carcasses of dead animals, but will steal food from other raptors,
raid bird nests, and take live prey if the possibility arises (mostly insects or other small prey, but at
least up to the size of a snowy egret). It is dominant over the black and turkey vulture at carcasses. It is
typically solitary, but several individuals may gather at a large food source (e.g. dumps). Breeding takes
place in the austral spring/summer in the southern part of its range, but timing is less strict in warmer
regions. The nest is a large open structure, typically placed on the top of a tree or palm, but sometimes on
the ground. Average clutch size is two eggs.
Range and habitat
The southern crested caracara occurs from Tierra del Fuego in southernmost South America north to the Amazon
River region and southern Peru. An isolated population occurs on the Falkland Islands. It avoids the Andean
highlands and dense humid forest, such as the Amazon rainforest, where it is largely restricted to
relatively open sections along major rivers. Otherwise, it occurs in virtually any open or semi-open
habitat and is often found near humans.
Zoológico de Vallarta A. C.
Leave your comments, your opinion is important to us