Crested Caracara in Callahan County


And yet another rare bird (for this area) has shown up in the Big Country: the Crested Caracara. On February 2, 2008, a friend reported seeing a caracara flying overhead on CR 283 on the county line of Callahan and Coleman. These types of sightings are hard to confirm; how does one chase a bird seen in the sky? Well, this past week the caracara was reported at roadkill on CR 283, just two miles south of Hwy. 36. This sighting was chase-able and that’s just what I and a friend did this morning. I was not able to obtain a photo but I did see the bird fly into the area. The photo used here is from John English and I believe he took this photo at Choke Canyon S.P. We watched the caracara harass a couple of Chihuahuan Ravens and soar with the Turkey Vultures for about ten minutes before disappearing again. Caracaras are found to the south of the Big Country in open habitats, typically grassland, prairie, pastures, or desert with scattered taller trees, shrubs, or cacti in which it nests. This sighting is well north of its normal range.

Anyway, just wanted to let all know that the Crested Caracara has been sighted in the Big Country, about 25 miles from Abilene. The roadkill is still in the area so there’s a good chance it will hang around this area for those that are interested in relocating the bird. The Birds of North America Online has this to say about the Crested Caracara:

The distinctive Crested Caracara “combines the raptorial instincts of the eagle with the base carrion-feeding habits of the vulture” (Hudson 1920). Called ignoble, miserable, and aggressive, yet also dashing, stately, and noble, this medium-sized raptor, with its bold black-and-white plumage pattern and bright yellow-orange face and legs, is easily recognizable as it perches conspicuously on a high point within its territory. In flight it can be distinguished by its regular, powerful wing-beats as it cruises low across the ground or just above the treetops. Known locally as the “Mexican buzzard” for its habit of scavenging alongside vultures, the Crested Caracara is an opportunist and is commonly seen walking about open fields and pastures, feeding on a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate prey, as well as on carrion. The name “caracara” is said to be of Guarani Indian origin, traro-traro, derived from the unusual rattling vocalization that the bird utters when agitated.

14 responses to “Crested Caracara in Callahan County”

  1. Some old time ranchers refer to them as Mexican eagles. Notorius for killing baby lambs, they would peel the hide from the rear up over the head and pick the carcass clean, leaving an intact skeleton.

  2. I do remember the term “Mexican eagle” but I always thought the caracara was a big grasshopper eater. And I grew up with cattle and sheep.

  3. If this animal kills baby lambs, it is a very rare occurrence; too often, feeding on lambs that recently died from other causes is interpreted as “killing” that lamb. This bird is basically a carrion-feeding falcon.

    Keith Arnold

  4. Started seeing this bird in Central Texas, Limestone and Leon Counties. The first time was about 2 Years ago,I was told by people that it didn’t exsist I must be seeing things. But on Tuesday April 22, 2008. I took some very nice photos of the bird, It was beautiful to watch, to see it hunt and catch it’s prey. ( a large field rat).

  5. Garland Wade (Abilene) and I were southbound on 283, 2 or 3 miles south of Hwy. 36, when we spotted a pair of Caracaras flying off some roadkill. I had never seen them before, and after returning home from fishing at Lake Coleman, I checked my wife’s copy of Sibley’s Guide For Birds and identified the birds in question. I checked the Internet and found this site.

  6. Hi Coy, thank you for the report. I am sorry for the delay in replying, changes haven’t been made to the website yet to let me know when someone has posted.

    Sounds like a good sighting. Congrats on the new life bird! Though rare, Crested Caracara have been seen in that area in that area over the past 2 years. I saw my first Crested Caracara last weekend at Lake O. H. Ivie on the 14th.

    Thank you for posting,

    Dan Symonds, President
    Big Country Audubon Society

  7. Saw one today with a big crowd of vultures in Round Rock, Tx just north of Austin, TX. It was protecting a kill or feeding along with the Vultures hard to say.

  8. I saw one scavenging an armadillo on the side of the road in north Austin on June 21 – pronounced black crest, red face, and larger than most of the hawks I’ve seen in the area. I stopped across the road from the Caracara to unpack my camera, but a pair of Mockingbirds chased it from it’s meal before I could get any pictures.

  9. We have seen the population of the Caracara grow tremendously in the Seguin area. My uncle just called me to let me know that they killed two of his 50-day-old lambs. I had a hard time believing him but he assured me that nothing else had gotten into the sheep pen.

  10. We saw a caracara on the telephone pole in our back yard eating something in Cypress, Texas it was there for about 15 minutes for our viewing pleasure….beautiful bird. Our dogs barked at the bottom of the pole the entire time and it finally dropped it’s leftover carcass on them and flew away.


  12. I know this bird well as I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. I now live in Hutto, Tx and I saw one in our subdivision last week feasting on carrion in the middle of our street.

  13. I recently saw one, and took photos, in my backyard here in San Antonio. I live by Seaworld. I heard a lot of birds chirping and went outside and saw him. I even saw a mockingbird dive bomb at him. They are a sight to look at.

  14. I live in Kyle TX (just south of Austin) – My wife and I saw one of these birds with some road kill last week – we were even more impressed to see 2 of them on the ground a few days later – we live in an estate that abuts farm land – was strange to see them in the suburbs