Species Profile: Caracara (Caracara plancus)

Caracara plancus - Cristián Saucedo

A caracara soars above Patagonia Park Photo: Cristián Saucedo

Medium sized but fierce, the bold caracara birds of Patagonia Park are opportunistic and also kleptoparasitic, stealing prey from other birds like Andean condors or Black-chested buzzard eagles. Sized between 40 and 60cm (16 to 24 inches) long, these birds can be identified by the reddish orange naked skin on their cheeks and throat, white brown neck, speckled chest, and long legs and talons. Opportunistic in their diet, caracaras are known to both forage for insects on foot like a chicken or behave like their vulture competitors, perching on fence posts and trees, or soaring low over open areas, eyes pealed for small birds, reptiles, amphibians, or leftover carcasses provided by pumas or foxes.


Caracara and an Andean condor peck at a carcass Photo: Cristián Saucedo

Never ones to let anything go to waste, the caracara nests are used several years in a row, and are a bulky complication of sticks and fur which sit atop trees or cliff ledges. As you might imagine, caracara parents are extremely territorial, like most birds of prey, and have strong site fidelity. Pairs of caracara are known to maintain partnerships for many years, and take turns feeding their chicks until they fledge at eight or nine weeks. Known to steal from other birds, it’s not uncommon for the caracara to be mobbed and chased by other birds.

Animal Portrait-Cristian Saucedo - Crested Caracara in a carcass in Patagonia

The opportunistic caracara feast on a leftover guanaco carcass in Patagonia Park Photo: Cristián Saucedo

The species stretches from as far south as the Falkland Islands up through North America, inhabiting Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Peru.  Their populations are not considered threatened, and their numbers continue to increase. Common in Patagonia Park, visitors can frequently sight tame pairs that live near administration.

One thought on “Species Profile: Caracara (Caracara plancus)

  1. Monday September 29th, 2014 at 02:00 PM

    Que lindo pajaro!

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