|Crested Caracara, Caracara cheriway Photo by Ned Harris|
Last May in Costa Rica I saw Caracaras a couple of times in the wild, but we were always on our way to something more interesting, rare, or otherwise attractive, so I never got a good look...and while they were more common in Costa Rica, I also hoped that I would eventually see them in Arizona. Because, even though wikipedia and some other sources mention only US populations in Florida and Texas, I knew that a few pairs breed regularly in the area around Sells, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odam Nation. Access there can be difficult, though
|Pima Cotton at Picacho Peak|
|Juvenile caracaras in pecan trees|
We found two groups of about 5 birds on a berm where they were feeding in the company of a bunch of ravens.
The birds seemed social. They were not just feeding close to each other, they interacted. They watched and followed each other on the ground, and stole from each other. When one left, the others soon joined him. They are carrion eaters and, like vultures, probably profit from strength in numbers when they have to compete with other predators at a large carcass. Phylogenetically, they are now grouped with the true Falcons in the family Falconiformes, but they have little in common with them. In behavior and even appearance they reminded me much more of the small Egyptian Vultures that I often watched in Southern Europe.
|Photo by Ned Harris|
I went back today when the light was better, but I only saw three caracaras on the ground and even they took off soon...later I saw them soaring high above.
On the wide open Santa Cruz flats, telephone posts are the most appreciated perches for most raptors other than Caracaras and Northern Harriers. We spotted amazing numbers of Kestrels, several Merlins (not on the poles or wires), at least three color morphs of Red-tails, a Cooper's, a Ferruginous Hawk and several Prairie Falcons.