Thursday, December 29, 2016

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracaras scan the horizon from a small tree. Looking for food is a daily task. This is probably a mated pair, though it is hard to tell as Crested Caracaras look alike...females being slightly larger. With a wingspan of nearly four feet, these are impressive birds whether in flight or at rest.

A juvenile, possibly related to the pair, wobbles unsteadily nearby. Lacking the distinctive coloration of an adult as well as the coordination, he struggles to gain a footing.

In the United States the Crested Caracara is chiefly found near the Arizona borderlands, although they are common throughout Mexico, Central and South America.

They also maintain a significance presence in southern Texas. Their overall population numbers are steady.

This is the Sonoran Desert where Crested Caracaras spend their day watching for things that don't move...dead things...carrion. Right now they are eyeing an Arizona sheep pasture halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. It's late December, 2016. It's lambing time and there will be plenty to eat for these hungry birds.

Nearly a hundred ewes will be giving birth during this brief period of time.

The caracaras and other birds are here to partake of an annual feast...not the lambs, but the remains of the birthing process.

Eighteen Black Vultures arrived for this bounty, too, but Crested Caracara's are not vultures.

They are actually in the family Falconidae...a family of fast flying falcons. Looking at the Crested Caracara you can see similarities, but caracaras are the low and slow flying family members.

The Crested Caracara is not a fussy eater.

Snakes, lizards, fish, amphibians, small mammals, eggs, nestlings and crawling things found under cow dung are all on a caracara menu.

But, rest assured...

...the little lambs are NOT.


Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 
All About Birds

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