Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)

During my stay in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and photographing on the Martin Refuge-The Javelina, two of the mornings, we spent at the raptor blind.  The main raptor, that we photographed, was the Crested Caracara. Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) In my travels, I had seen the caracara once in Florida and was able to photograph it one time during a previous trip to the Rio Grande Valley, a single flight shot.  So I was looking in anticipation to see and photograph these beautiful birds.
The refuge utilizes road kill animals to place out in front of the raptor blind to attract the crested caracara's.  Caracara diet includes carrion and in the caracara's can be found feeding, along with vultures.  Other foods that caracaras eat include insects small and occasionally large vertebrates and eggs.
After setting up our equipment in the blinds, the refuge manager placed out road-kill and form all sides.  Caracara's flew in, landing on the the tree posts that were placed there and on the surrounding vegetation and also write on the ground.  At first it was hard to pick out where to photograph.  What I decided to do, is to first decide what type of photographs that I wanted and then concentrate on obtaining those images.  My basic plan was to first obtain a set of recognition photographs, both juveniles and adults, then a set of photographs of the caracara's coming in to land on the perches, some environmental type of photographs, and then photographs documenting their behavior.
crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Caracaras tossed their head back when calling
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) and Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Caracara And Turkey Vulture
Caracaras coming into feed on a carcass
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) D3C_1894 October 26, 2012 NIKON D3SCrested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Crested caracara are members of the falcon family.  Although they are members of the falcon family, the caracara's are not a fast flying aerial Hunter, but more sluggish in flying and as stated above scavengers eating carrion .  They are found in the southernmost parts of the United States, including Florida, where it is listed as threatened, Mexico, Central America and northern South America and Cuba.  They are found in open and semi-open country.
Immature caracara can be told from an adult because they are browner, have a buff neck and throat and a pale breast that is streaked a model with Brown, grayish-white legs and grayish adult pinkish purple facial skin.
An interesting observation that we noticed was a number of birds that were missing a portion of their foot.  Our thought about how this occurred was since the caracara are carrion eaters and farmers and ranchers put out traps to capture predators, that the caracara got caught in the trap, which amputated their foot or leg.  However, these birds seem to get around all right, and are able to hop on land on a branch, utilizing only the one leg.  They are excellent balancers.
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Caracara missing left foot