Friday, November 15, 2013

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracaras are found from southern Texas and southern Arizona to northern South America. An isolated population also breeds in central Florida. The first photo was one of my first (taken almost 50 years ago!), a caracara in eastern Mexico. The orange spot in the middle of its breast is probably its naked, extended crop. I photographed the second bird a couple of years ago in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Caracaras are opportunistic feeders that specialize in carrion. They often feed in flocks and with vultures. They are classified as falcons but are often mistakenly thought to be vultures or hawks. Locally known as Mexican Buzzards, in Mexico they are sometimes called “Quebrantahuesos,” which I translate as Bone-breakers. They enjoy carrion but also search for whatever invertebrates or vertebrates they can find. The name caracara is thought to be derived from “traro-traro,” a Native American word mimicking one of the caracara’s calls. The Aztecs were inspired to build their city Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) by a caracara eating a snake while perched on a cactus. This legend is depicted on the Mexican flag and on their coat of arms (Morrison and Dwyer 2012).

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