Southern Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)

Southern Crested Caracara

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Caracara plancus | [authority] Miller, 1777 | [UK] Southern Crested Caracara | [FR] Caracara huppe | [DE] Schopfkarakara | [ES] Caracara Carancho | [NL] Kuifcaracara


Monotypic species


The genus caracara, comprises of two species; both birds of prey in the family Falconidae. The Northern Caracara which was formerly considered conspecific with the Southern Caracara and the extinct Guadalupe Caracara. The Northern species is also known as the “Crested Caracara”. As its relatives, the Northern Caracara was formerly placed in the genus Polyborus. Unlike the Falco falcons in the same family, the caracaras are not fast-flying aerial hunters, but are rather sluggish and often scavengers.

Physical charateristics

Sexes are similar in this medium-sized, broad-winged, long-tailed hawk.
A Thick, grey hooked beak, with reddish cere and bare facial skin around eye
Long neck, especially apparent in flight. A black cap with slight crest at rear of head White bases to outer six primaries form white panel on outer wing like that on Black Vulture. White rump, uppertail and undertail coverts White tail with black barring and thick terminal band. Black belly and long yellowish legs. Black back and breast and upper back marked by fine, dark vermiculations

Listen to the sound of Southern Crested Caracara

[audio: Crested Caracara.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Juan Mazar Barnett

wingspan min.: 114 cm wingspan max.: 122 cm
size min.: 51 cm size max.: 64 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 85 days fledging max.: 90 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 4  


South America : South, Southcentral


The Crested Caracaras’ preferred habitat is open, lowland countryside, like pastures, savannas, river edges, and ranches. They may also be found in some forests and marshes.


Crested Caracaras build a massive stick nest in a palm, cactus, tree, or on the ground. The nest is a large informal structure of sticks, often unlined, but sometimes lined with dry dung and trash including bones and pieces of dried skin. The eggs lay in a deep cup lined with a felted mass of pellets ejected by the parents. The nests are often re-used. They are placed in dense branches of trees, cacti or among palm fronds. In the treeless pampas it will nest on the ground, sometimes on an island in a marsh. It will also nest under overhanging rocks in treeless deserts. The female usually lays 2-3 eggs that are incubated for 28-32 days. The young caracaras have a prolonged fledging period, taking up to 3 months before they are flying as independent birds.

Feeding habits

The Crested Caracara usually feeds on carrion, but they will take advantage of any food opportunity by eating small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, turtles, fish, crab, eggs, insects, worms, and nestling birds. Caracaras hunt live food on the ground or take food from other birds.

Video Southern Crested Caracara


copyright: celopsaris


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 4,300,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 100,000-1,000,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but there is evidence of a population increase (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001), and so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
These birds reside in the southwestern United States and Florida, Central America, and South America. In Suriname in the coastal plane in open country (cities) with scattered trees. Most abundant around Nickerie.
Southern Crested Caracara status Least Concern


Mainly sedentary, but some local movements presumed, in Guatemala transient in highlands throughout year.

Distribution map

Southern Crested Caracara distribution range map


Title Seed dispersal of Attalea phalerata (Palmae) by Crested caracaras (Caracara
plancus) in the Pantanal and a review of frugivory by raptors
Author(s): Mauro Galetti and Paulo R. Guimaraes Jr
Abstract: We observed Crested caracaras (Caracara plancus) c..[more]..
Source: Ararajuba 12 (2):133-135

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