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Return of Bird of the Week: Striated Caracara

Striated Caracara, West Point Island, Falkland Islands

Striated Caracara, West Point Island, Falkland Islands

The Striated Caracara is a large, dark raptor, with a wingspan of about four feet, a little larger in the females. It has a very restricted range, limited to islands off extreme southern South America, the Falkland Islands and various islands, mostly to the south of the Beagle Channel and coastal areas of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.

It is very dark brownish-black overall, with white stippling on the breast and upper belly, a dark chestnut lower belly and undertail coverts, a white band on the tail, and a yellow cere. It’s found along rocky coasts and nearby open areas, where it feeds on carrion, primarily dead seabirds and chicks, as well as on arthropods and other items. Think of an opportunistic vulture. Falklanders call it Johnny Rook, because a primary food source is Gentoo – Johnny – chicks. It’s persecuted on some of the Falkland Islands because it will prey on lambs, and sheep ranching is the Falklands biggest industry.

Striated Caracara, West Point Island, Falkland Islands

Striated Caracara, West Point Island, Falkland Islands

It is nearly fearless around humans. The bird in this photo actually approached tourists, more out of curiosity than having been fed by humans; that’s pretty strictly prohibited. WC had to back up repeatedly to get these photos as the bird approached.

The species is poorly studied. There are believed to be about 500 nesting pairs in the Falkland Islands, and perhaps another 1,500 pairs scattered around the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Despite the persecution by sheep ranchers, the small population and limited range, it is not believed to be threatened as a species.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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