Observing a raptor always leaves me in awe of its intense power capabilities. There are a number of different raptors that can be seen at the local patches I regularly visit, but there is one species I find especially unique and intriguing, the Crested Caracara. This species is obviously very easy to identify with its dark crested cap, bare reddish-orange skinned face, thick bluish hooked bill, and awkwardly long, yellow legs.
The range of the Crested Caracara is limited in Florida as well in the US. In the US, according to the eBird range map, they are typically found in parts of Florida, Texas, and Arizona. In Florida, the majority of the Crested Caracaras reside in south-central portion of the state. I observe the Caracaras regularly, year round at the Viera Wetlands and in the surrounding sod farm fields. I have also spotted them in random places around town, including a golf course, a small park, a parking lot, and on the edge of tall buildings. Caracaras prefer open habitats, such as grasslands, pastures, and fields.
|Adult & juvenile Crested Caracaras|
While these large raptors are members of the falcon family, their behaviors are quite different from other falcons that I've observed. Crested Caracaras are opportunistic feeders. Like vultures, Caracaras can often be seen scavenging for and consuming carrion. They will also capture live prey, such as turtles, young birds and alligators, snakes, rabbits, and frogs. I find it most amusing to watch Crested Caracaras as they forage on foot, hopping through tall, grassy fields. Caracaras are able to run and walk more efficiently than most raptors due to the shape of their flatter talons.
|Crested Caracara with Common Gallinule chick|
Crested Caracara pairs are territorial. They typically build their stick nests in Cabbage Palms. After leaving the nest, the young stay with the parents for several months. I believe this pair successfully fledged one juvenile this year. I've seen the young Caracara (as seen in the second photo of this post) in the company of or close proximity to the pair several times, up until recently. Most recently, I saw the pair chase the youngster away.
|Pair of Crested Caracara|
Hopefully the pair will have another successful nesting season this winter!