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Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway


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Northern Crested Caracara

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Alternate name: Northern Caracara

Family: Falconidae, Falcons view all from this family

Description ADULT Has dark crown and red cere (changes color quickly) that contrast with otherwise whitish neck and barred white breast. Back, underparts, and wings are dark brown except for barred pale base to primaries and barred, pale tail with a dark terminal band. Wings look nearly square-tipped in flight. Legs are yellow. JUVENILE Similar, but has pale spots on back and wings; leg and cere colors are duller.

Dimensions Length: 20-22" (51-56 cm); Wngspn: 4' (1.2 m)

Endangered Status The Audubon's Crested Caracara, a subspecies of the Crested Caracara, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in Florida. These birds need large, open-country territories, and the conversion of habitat to citrus orchards and tree plantations and the loss of habitat to residential and commercial development has caused their numbers to drop. Caracaras are slow reproducers and have not been able to rebound quickly. Increasing numbers have been killed by automobiles as traffic in Florida reaches an all-time high. Nearly all of the known Audubon's Crested Caracaras live on private lands, which do not come under federal protection. The only hope for the subspecies is the mainenance of its remaining habitat.

Habitat Common in Neotropics, resident in southern Texas and southern Florida; favors arid, open country.

Observation Tips Fairly easy to see in southern Texas.

Range Florida, Texas, Southeast, Southwest

Voice Mostly silent.

Discussion Large and unmistakable raptor with long legs, neck, wings, and tail, and large, flat-crowned head with a massive eagle-like bill. Sits on fence posts and soars with ease. Sexes are similar.