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 â€œcombines the raptorial instincts of the eagle with the base carrion-feeding habits of the vultureâ€ (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 â€œMexican buzzardâ€ 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 â€œcaracaraâ€ is said to be of Guarani Indian origin, traro-traro, derived from the unusual rattling vocalization that the bird utters when agitated.