Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Crested Caracara
Caracara cheriway

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: Audubon's Caracara (audubonii), Caraira, Common Caracara, Crested Caracara, Mexican Buzzard, Mexican Eagle, Northern Caracara, Northern Crested Caracara, Savannah Kite, Tres Marias Caracara (pallidus), Venezuelan Caracara (cheriway).

more photos
Caracara cheriway
click to enlarge
Distribution: Nearctic/Neotropical. Southern UNITED STATES south through Mexico, Central America, and northern South America to northwestern PERU and central BRAZIL. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. C. c. audubonii: Southern UNITED STATES (Florida, Texas, Arizona) south through MEXICO and Central America to western PANAMA; CUBA and Isle of Pines; C. c. pallidus: Tres Marias Is. off western MEXICO; C. c. cheriway: Eastern PANAMA through central and eastern COLOMBIA to the GUIANAS and south to northwestern PERU and south in BRAZIL to the Amazon River; NETHERLANDS ANTILLES (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) east to TRINIDAD. more....

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. This species and its congeners were formerly placed in the genus Polyborus (Amadon 1954), but Wetmore (1965) and Banks and Dove (1992) provided justification for the use of Caracara. Based on the work of Dove and Banks (1999), this species was separated from Caracara plancus, the Southern Caracara, although intergradation between the two forms was reported by Hellmayr and Conover (1949) near the mouth of the Amazon (also see Amadon 1964). At the least, they constitute a superspecies. The extinct Guadalupe Caracara, P. lutosus, now treated as a full species, may have been merely a subspecies of C. cheriway.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Seasonal movements occur in some area, including Texas, where the species retreats somewhat from the northernmost portions of the range during cooler winters (Lockwood and Freeman 2004).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in lowlands and middle elevations, preferring open country, including cattle ranches, farmland, scrub, pastures, savannas, deserts, and beaches. Perches on the ground, fenceposts, or in small trees. Usually dominant over vultures at carcasses. Occurs singly or in pairs, or in small family groups following breeding. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on carrion of all kinds, live snakes, frogs, rodents, nestling birds, turtle eggs and young, and newborn lambs. In Florida, breeding caracara feed larger vertebrate prey to nestlings, and non-breeding birds consume a greater number of invertebrates (Morrison et al. 2008). This species hunts for prey while walking on ground, especially along roads, and often pirates food from other species. It also attends grass fires and fields that are being plowed. more....

Breeding: The nest is a large, bulky cup of sticks placed in the top of a palm or in a small isolated tree in savanna. Clutch size is 2-3 (rarely 4) eggs with a white ground color and usually suffused with reddish-brown and dark brown pigment. more....

Conservation: Common or abundant in most areas and expanding its range in areas where deforestation is occurring. U.S. populations are considered to be stable (Goodrich 2006). Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Banks, R., and C. Dove. 1992. The generic name for Crested Caracara (Aves:
  Falconidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
Bent, A.C. 1938. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Part 2.
  U.S. National Museum Bulletin 170.
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.
Dickinson, V.M., and K.M. Arnold. 1996. Breeding biology of the Crested
  Caracara in south Texas. Wilson Bulletin 108:516-523.
Dove, C.J., and R.C. Banks. 1999. A taxonomic study of crested caracaras
  (Falconidae). Wilson Bulletin 111:330-339.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Morrison, J.L. 1996. Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway. In A. Poole and
  F. Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America no. 249. Academy of Natural
  Sciences of Philadelphia, PA, and American Ornithologists' Union,
  Washington, D.C.
Morrison, J.L. 1999. Breeding biology and productivity of Florida's
  Crested Caracaras. Condor 101:505-517.
Morrison, J.L. 2003. Age-specific survival of Florida's Crested Caracara.
  Journal of Field Ornithology 74:321-330.
Rivera-Rodríguez, L.B., and R. Rodríguez-Estrella 1998. Breeding biology
  of the Crested Caracara in the Cape Region of Baja California, Mexico.
  Journal of Field Ornithology 69:160-168.
Rodríguez-Estrella, R., and L.B. Rivera-Rodríguez. 1997. Crested Caracara
  food habits in the Cape Region of Baja California, Mexico. Journal of Raptor
  Research 31:228-233.
Vuilleumier, F. 1970. Generic relations and speciation patterns in the
  caracara (Aves: Falconidae). Breviora 355:1-29.
Whitacre, D., D. Ukrain, and G. Falxa. 1982. Notes on the hunting behavior
  and diet of the Crested Caracara in northeastern Chiapas and Tabasco,
  Mexico. Wilson Bulletin 94:565-566.
Yosef, R., and D. Yosef. 1992. Hunting behavior of Audubon's Crested
  Caracara. Journal of Raptor Research 26:100-101.

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

Mealey, Brian
Morrison, Joan
Rodríguez Santana, Freddy

Last modified: 3/15/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 23 Jan. 2021

Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Copyright © 1999-2012 The Peregrine Fund. All Rights Reserved.