Crested caracara (Caracara cheriway), is a medium-sized falcon with a long tail and broad wings. It is about 22 inches long with a 4 foot Crested Caracarawingspan. The sexes are similar. The bird is mostly black with a black cap that is crested at the end. The face is red, the beak hooked and gray. The throat and neck and base of the tail are white. There are white patches near the wing tips.
The Northern Crested Caracara has unique and striking plumage. One of its most distinctive features is the black patch of feathers on the top of its head. Unlike the long, elegant crest of the Harpy Eagle, however, the caracara’s crest is dense and when raised looks short and shaggy – almost as if it were having a bad hair day! The adults have beautiful cream-colored necks, mottled breasts and dark wings and backs with distinctive white patches on their wings and tail. They also are equipped with relatively long legs, which are yellow.
In the wild
Crested Caracaras live in Canada, the United States (Texas, Arizona, Florida), Mexico, Central America, and South America. What kind of place do they like to live in? They like pasturelands, shrublands, and open land. They are sometimes in forests and wetlands. Interesting facts: Many raptors take advantage of their ability to fly fast by swooping out of the air to grab prey.
Along with the Secretary Bird, the Northern Crested Caracara is one of the few other raptors that hunts on foot. This species walks on the ground, often along roads, searching for food. The caracara is not a picky eater and has an extensive menu, which pretty much includes anything it can catch. They eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, turtles, fish, crab, eggs, insects, worms, and nestling birds.
In addition to their hunting skills, caracaras are big carrion feeders. Because they fly much lower to the ground than vultures, they often are the first on the scene of a feeding frenzy. These birds can be aggressive when it comes to their food and often dominate over the much larger vultures that come to feed on the same carcass.