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Southern Caracara
Caracara plancus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: Brazilian Caracara, Carancho, Carancho Carrion Hawk, Common Caracara, Crested Caracara, Falco brasiliensis, Polyborus tharus, Southern Crested Caracara.

Caracara plancus
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Distribution: Neotropical.  Central PERU and central and southeastern BOLIVIA east to the Amazon Delta and south through CHILE, ARGENTINA, PARAGUAY, and URUGUAY to TIERRA DEL FUEGO; FALKLAND ISLANDS. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Seibold et al. (1993) found that the subfamilies Falconinae (true falcons) and the Polyborinae (caracaras) share a common ancestor, based on sequences of the cytochrome b gene. This genus is closely related to Phalcoboenus, with which it was formerly merged. The caracaras were formerly placed in the genus Polyborus (Amadon 1954), but Wetmore (1965) and Banks and Dove (1992) provided the justification for the use of the name Caracara. This species was separated from the Crested Caracara, Caracara cheriway, by Dove and Banks (1999), since they are nearly parapatric in South America with no sign of intergradation; the two taxa form a superspecies. Earlier, Hellmayr and Conover (1949) merged the two species, but they were regarded as distinct by Pinto (1938) and Friedmann (1950).

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in all types of open country in lowlands and middle elevations, including modified woodlands, of all kinds. Often perches on fenceposts, shrubs, and trees along roads or other open areas. Flies low over the countryside, alternately flapping and soaring. Usually seen singly, or in pairs, although juveniles may form flocks in winter (Woods and Woods 1997). Not particularly wary. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: A dietary opportunist, feeding on a wide range of carrion and live animals, particularly road kills. Attracted to burning or burned fields and may follow plows and tractors to obtain exposed food items. Eats turtle eggs on beaches, plunders bird nests for eggs and nestlings, and even feeds on a variety of vegetable matter, including peanuts, beans, avocados, and palm fruits. Attacks and eats newborn lambs. Mostly forages on foot, walking around on the ground like a chicken, and occasionally jumping on prey. Kleptoparasitic, often robbing food from other bird species, and is frequently mobbed and chased by other birds (Couve and Vidal 2004). more....

Breeding: The nest is a large bulky stick structure made of dry sticks, sometimes with spines, and usually lined with wool or animal hair and placed in the top of tree, or on a cliff ledge. Nests are refurbished and used in successive years. Clutch size is 2-3 eggs, and eggs are laid at intervals of three days. The incubation period is 28-32 days, and the nesting period varied from 50-56 days at Reserva El Bagual, Formosa Province (Di Giacomo 2005).more....

Conservation: Common throughout most of its range, especially in the southern part of the range, but rare along the Pacific slope of Peru (Clements 2001) and "thinly distributed" on the Falkland Islands (Woods and Woods 1997). Rich et al. (2004) estimated the United States population at 70,000 individuals, most of which are in Texas. Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International (2007). more....

Important References: 
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Crested Caracara. P. 250 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Di Giacomo, A.G. 2005. Aves de la Reserva El Bagual. Pp. 201-465 in A.G.
  Di Giacomo and S.F. Krapovickas (eds.), Historia natural y paisaje de la
  Reserva El Bagual, Provincia de Formosa, Argentina: inventario de la fauna
  de vertebrados y de la flora vascular de un area protegida del Chaco Humedo.
  Temas de Naturaleza y Conservación 4:1-592. Aves Argentinas/Asociación del
  Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Dove, C.J., and R.C. Banks. 1999. A taxonomic study of crested caracaras
  (Falconidae). Wilson Bulletin 111:330-339.
Engh, A.L., W.I. Franklin, and R.J. Sarno. 1997. Breeding biology and food
  habits of the Andean Crested Caracara (Polyborus plancus plancus) in the
  Patagonia of southern Chile. Vida Silvestre Neotropical 6:48-52.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Goldstein, M.I. 2000. Nest-site characteristics of Crested Caracaras in La
  Pampa, Argentina. Journal of Raptor Research 34:330-333.
Housse, R.-P.É. 1948. Les oiseaux du Chili. Masson & Cie, Éditeurs, Paris.
Travaini, A., J.A. Donázar, P. Ceballos, M. Funes, A. Rodríguez, J.
  Bustamante, M. Delibes, and F. Hiraldo.
1994. Nest-site characteristics of
  four raptor species in the Argentinian Patagonia. Wilson Bulletin
Travaini, A., J.A. Donázar, P. Ceballos, and F. Hiraldo. 2001. Food habits
  of the Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) in the Andean Patagonia: the role
  of breeding constraints. Journal of Arid Environments 48:211-219.
Vargas, R.J., M.S. Bó, and M. Favero. 2007. Diet of the Southern Caracara
  (Caracara plancus) in Mar Chiquita Reserve, southern Argentina. Journal
  of Raptor Research 41:113-121.
Vuilleumier, F. 1970. Generic relations and speciation patterns in the
  caracara (Aves: Falconidae). Breviora 355:1-29.
Woods, R.A., and A. Woods. 1997. Atlas of breeding birds of the Falkland
  Islands. Anthony Nelson, Shropshire, UK.

Sites of Interest:
Southern Crested Caracara photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Beaumont, John
Ibarra, Jose Tomas
Liébana, María Soledad
Marin, Manuel
Sarasola, José Hernán
Silveira da Silva, Elsimar

Last modified: 4/3/2014

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Southern Caracara Caracara plancus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 26 Oct. 2021

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