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Return of Bird of the Week: Southern Crested Caracara

Caracaras are a subfamily of Falconidae, the same family that includes North America’s falcons. Exactly which subfamily is a matter of some dispute; the taxonomy of Caracaras is unsettled.[^1] Probably the most common Caracara in South America is the Southern Crested Caracara.[^2]

Southern Crested Caracara, Pantanal, Brazil

Southern Crested Caracara, Pantanal, Brazil

The species is somewhat like a Bald Eagle in that it is both a predator and a scavenger. It has almost no fear of humans and bullies Black and Turkey Vultures off of carrion. Its wingspan is a little over four feet but the head and bill, as you can see here, are massive.

Southern Crested Caracara, Pantanal, Brazil

Southern Crested Caracara, Pantanal, Brazil

The talons are pretty impressive, too. Like other Caracaras, the species often hunts from the ground, stalking around for food. This is a bird of open grasslands and savannah. It has benefited somewhat from the clearing of tropical forests. It was very common in the Pantanal.

Southern Crested Caracara on prey, Pantanal, Brazil

Southern Crested Caracara on prey, Pantanal, Brazil

The prey here, probably an Ibis, was taken by a Roadside Hawk, that the Caracara drove off.

The very extensive range of this species, together with its adaptation to human altered landscapes, probably mean it is not in immediate danger, even though it is a comparatively slow breeder.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

 

[^1]: The various theories are that they belong in the subfamily Polyborinae with the forest falcons. Other ornithologists believe they belong in their own subfamily, Caracarinae. Still others believe they are members of the true falcon subfamily, Falconinae. DNA studies are under way.

[^2]: The  common name of this species is unsettled as well. Some call if the Southern Caracara; others the Carancha.

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