Caracara (genus)

Caracara is a genus in the family Falconidae and the subfamily Polyborinae. It contains one extant species, the crested caracara; and one extinct species, the Guadalupe caracara. The South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithological Society has voted to again merge the two, retaining C. plancus as crested caracara.[1] The taxonomists of the International Ornithologists' Union have also merged them.[2]

Crested Caracara JCB.jpg
Crested caracara (Caracara plancus)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Genus: Caracara
Merrem, 1826

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The crested caracara is distinguished by its long legs and medium size.[3] The birds can reach a length of 49–58 cm (19–23 in) from head to tail.[4] There are usually four points of identification of the caracara: strikingly white markings on the neck, the tip of both wings, and the tail.[5] Along with their medium length, the caracara also has a wingspan of 122–129 cm (48–51 in).[6] When flying, the caracara is often noted to have a pattern on their underside that looks like a cross.[7]


The behaviors of caracaras are considered quite strange in relation to other falcons.[8] The bird is often seen walking on the ground in search of prey, using its long legs to maneuver its landscapes.[9] In addition to a preference of walking over flying, the birds also create close bonds with their mates. Caracaras are territorial creatures who are year-round landlords of trees and land that they occupy. Their aggressiveness is an extension of this which why they have been seen taking food from much larger creatures like vultures.[10][11] In flight, this bird is known for having very direct flight. It does not soar for leisure.[12]

Taxonomy and fossil recordEdit

The crested caracara is the only extant species in Caracara, and was formerly separated into two species, the northern and southern crested caracaras. The modern range includes Cuba, South America, most of Central America and Mexico, just reaching the southernmost parts of the United States, including Florida.[13]

Native to Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Baja California, the Guadalupe caracara was hunted to extinction by 1906.

An additional six species have been described on the basis of fossil and subfossil records:


  1. ^ Remsen, J. V., Jr., J. I. Areta, E. Bonaccorso, S. Claramunt, A. Jaramillo, J. F. Pacheco, C. Ribas, M. B. Robbins, F. G. Stiles, D. F. Stotz, and K. J. Zimmer. Version 13 December 2020. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithological Society. retrieved December 13, 2020
  2. ^ Gill, F.; Donsker, D.; Rasmussen, P. (December 2020). "IOC World Bird List (v 10.2) Proposed Splits/Lumps". Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Caracara | bird". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Crested Caracara Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Crested Caracara | Bird Gallery | Houston Audubon". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Crested Caracara Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Crested Caracara: Not Your Everyday Falcon". Wild Latitudes. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Crested Caracara | Bird Gallery | Houston Audubon". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Crested Caracara - Introduction". Birds of North America Online. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  10. ^ Morrison, Joan L., and James F. Dwyer. Crested Caracara (Caracara Cheriway). 4 Mar. 2020,
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Crested caracara". Raptor Center - University of Minnesota. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Caracara". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 3 April 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Steadman, David W.; Franz, Richard; Morgan, Gary S.; Albury, Nancy A.; Kakuk, Brian; Broad, Kenneth; Franz, Shelley E.; Tinker, Keith; Pateman, Michael P.; Lott, Terry A.; Jarzen, David M.; Dilcher, David L. (2007). "Exceptionally well preserved late Quaternary plant and vertebrate fossils from a blue hole on Abaco, The Bahamas". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (50): 19897–19902. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709572104. PMC 2148394. PMID 18077421.
  15. ^ Hume, Julian P.; Walters, Michael (19 March 2012). Extinct Birds. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408158623.
  16. ^ Jones, Washington; Rinderknecht, Andrés; Migotto, Rafael; Blanco, R. Ernesto (2013). "Body Mass Estimations and Paleobiological Inferences on a New Species of Large Caracara (Aves, Falconidae) from the Late Pleistocene of Uruguay". Journal of Paleontology. 87 (1): 151–158. doi:10.1666/12-026R.1. JSTOR 23353814. S2CID 83648963.
  17. ^ Guthrie, Daniel A. (1992). "A Late Pleistocene Avifauna from San Miguel Island, California" (PDF). Los Angeles County Natural History Museum Science Series. 36: 319–327.
  18. ^ Jones, W. W.; Cenizo, M. M.; Agnolin, F. L.; Rinderknecht, A.; Blanco, R. E. (2015). "The largest known falconid". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Palaontologie. Abhandlungen. 277 (3): 361–372. doi:10.1127/njgpa/2015/0514.
  19. ^ Suárez, William; Olson, Storrs L. (1 September 2014). "A new fossil species of small crested caracara (Aves: Falconidae: Caracara) from the Pacific lowlands of western South America". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 127 (2): 299–310. doi:10.2988/0006-324X-127.2.299. ISSN 0006-324X. S2CID 130085421.
  20. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (2008). "A New Species of Large, Terrestrial Caracara from Holocene Deposits in Southern Jamaica (Aves: Falconidae)". Journal of Raptor Research. The Raptor Research Foundation. 42 (4): 265–272. doi:10.3356/JRR-08-18.1. S2CID 84510858.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

  • Photo of crested caracara at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas : [1]