Wildlife

One Of My Favorite Falcons The Crested Cara Cara!

I live in a wildlife Paradise and want to share what I see daily. 99% of the photographs are taken by me within a 40 mile radius of my home. I am hopeful Children will learn about the environment and appreciate the beauty and importance of our local wildlife before it is gone! Extinction trickles down! Please Share…

The Crested Cara Cara is one of the few birds I have not had the pleasure of working with, although I only worked with injured or orphaned Birds in the wildlife rehabilitation field, so I guess it’s good that I have never worked on one! Still one of my favorites, I am so lucky to see them everyday in my neighborhood!  The range of the Cara Cara is small in the USA so many people will never see one in a lifetime.

These pictures are of three different birds 2 miles apart from each other on Highway 82 in Johnson Bayou.

The Crested Cara Cara looks like a hawk with its sharp beak and talons, behaves like a vulture, and is technically a large tropical black-and-white falcon. It is instantly recognizable standing tall on long yellow-orange legs with a sharp black cap set against a white neck and yellow-orange face. The Crested Cara Cara is a bird of open country and reaches only a few states in the southern U.S. It flies low on flat wings, and routinely walks on the ground.

  • A common subject of folklore and legends throughout Central and South America, the Crested Cara Cara is sometimes called the “Mexican eagle.”
  • Although it looks like a long-legged hawk the Crested Cara Cara is actually a falcon.
  • The Crested Cara Cara is the only falcon that collects material to build a nest. Other falcons lay their eggs in an old nest built by another species or in a scrape on the ground.
  • The oldest recorded Crested Cara Cara was at least 21 years, 9 months old when it was identified by its band in 2015 in Florida. It was first banded in the same state in 1994.

The Crested Cara Cara is a medium-sized, bulky raptor with long legs. Its flat head is topped with a shaggy crest. In flight, note its long, straight wings and diamond-shaped tail. The bill is heavy with a sharp tip. Crested Cara Cara are black and white with yellow-orange legs and yellow-orange skin around the bill. Their black cap contrasts strongly with their white neck and cheeks. In flight the under-tail and outer flight feathers are white. Juveniles are brown and white and lack the adult’s yellow-orange legs and facial skin.

Though Crested Cara Cara are thought to eat primarily carrion they also eat live prey including insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Crested Cara Cara are resourceful foragers and eat just about anything they can find. They wade in shallow waters to grab fish, dig up turtle eggs with their feet, and turn over debris with feet to uncover insects. Crested Cara Cara also take advantage of disturbance such as fires or farming operations, grabbing fleeing animals or picking up those that have died. They watch for vultures and often join them to feed on carrion. Because Crested Cara Cara cannot open large carcasses on their own they must wait for a vulture or larger animal to open it up. Unlike most raptors that pounce on prey, Cara Cara generally fly or run on the ground toward their prey until they overtake it.

Crested Cara Cara generally build a nest in the tallest tree, cactus, shrub, or other structure around.

Nest Description

Males and females collect stems, twigs, and vines that they weave into a bulky nest with a shallow bowl. It takes the pair around 2 to 4 weeks to build a nest. Nests are approximately 2 feet across, but they frequently reuse and refurbish old nests, so they are often larger. Please Share!

Photos by Jeff

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