Caracara — Caracaras are birds of prey in the family Falconidae. They are principally birds of South and Central America, just reaching the southern USA.
Unlike the Falco falcons in the same family, the birds in the five relevant genera are not fast-flying aerial hunters, but are comparably sluggish and often scavengers (a notable exception being the Red-throated Caracara).
The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway), also known as the Northern Caracara, is a bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It was formerly considered conspecific with the Southern Caracara (C. plancus) and the extinct Guadalupe Caracara (C. lutosus). As its relatives, the Crested Caracara was formerly placed in the genus Polyborus. Unlike the Falco falcons in the same family, the caracaras are not fast-flying aerial hunters, but are rather sluggish and often scavengers.
The Crested Caracara is a resident breeder in northern South America and most of Central America, just reaching the southernmost parts of the USA, including Florida, where it is resident but listed as threatened. South of the US border, it is a commonly seen large raptor.
This is a bird of open country, which nests in a tree or on the ground, laying 2 to 4 eggs. It is 58 cm (23 in) long with a 125 cm (4 ft) wingspan. Individuals have also been observed both in the air and on the ground in urban areas near nature reserves.
The Crested Caracara is broad-winged and long-tailed. It also has long legs and frequently walks and runs on the ground. It is very cross-shaped in flight. The adult has a black body, wings, crest and crown. The neck, rump, and conspicuous wing patches are white, and the tail is white with black barring and a broad terminal band. The breast is white, finely barred with black. The bill is thick, grey and hooked, and the cere is red. This species has bare skin around the eye that can change color in seconds. Sexes are similar, but immature birds have a brown back, buff neck and throat, and pale breast streaked with brown. The voice of this species is a low rattle.
The Crested Caracara is omnivorous, and will eat reptiles, amphibians and other small animals as well as carrion.
The Crested Caracara is not the national bird of Mexico, as was previously thought. It is actually the Golden Eagle.