Caracara cheriway - (Jacquin, 1784)
Crested Caracara
Other English Common Names: crested caracara
Other Common Names: Caracará
Synonym(s): Polyborus cheriway (Jacquin, 1784) ;Polyborus plancus audubonii Cassin, 1865
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Caracara cheriway (Jacquin, 1784) (TSN 175595)
French Common Names: Caracara du Nord
Spanish Common Names: Caracara Quebrantahuesos
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.101875
Element Code: ABNKD02020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Raptors
Image 11017

© Jeff Nadler

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Falconiformes Falconidae Caracara
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2000. Forty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 117:847-858
Concept Reference Code: A00AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Caracara cheriway
Taxonomic Comments: Formerly included in C. plancus, but recognized as a separate species by AOU (2000) on the basis of analyses of plumage, morphology, and reported hybridization by Dove and Banks (1999). C. plancus, now referred to as the Southern Caracara, is restricted to southern Peru and central Brazil south to Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands (AOU 2000).

Formerly included in the genus Polyborus, but that name has no standing because it is based on a type species that is not identifiable (AOU 1993, Banks and Browning 1995).

The Florida population was listed by USFWS as part of subspecies Polyborus plancus audubonii, but this taxon evidently is no longer accepted; audubonii was not mentioned as a distinctive "group" or subspecies by AOU (1983, 1998, 2000) nor by Sibley and Monroe (1990). Johnsgard (1990) included audubonii in subspecies cheriway, and Sibley and Monroe and AOU (1998) included it (unnamed) in the cheriway group. Palmer (1988) recognized audubonii as a valid subspecies. Extinct form on Guadalupe Island now recognized as a distinct species C. lutosa (AOU 2000, Dove and Banks 1999, Sibley and Monroe 1990).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 08Sep2000
Global Status Last Changed: 08Sep2000
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Common in many areas of the very extensive range (southern U.S. to South America); population trend varies regionally; probably increasing with deforestation in some areas, declining with agricultural and other development elsewhere.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (05Jan1997)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arizona (S2), Florida (S2), Louisiana (S1), New Mexico (SXB), Texas (S4B)

Other Statuses

Implied Status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): PS:LT
Comments on USESA: Polyborus plancus audubonii is listed by USFWS as Threatened in Florida (Federal Register, 6 July 1987).
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: RESIDENT: in central and southern Florida, Cuba, and the Isle of Pines, and from northern Baja California, southern Arizona, Sonora, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Nuevo Leon, central and southern Texas, and southwestern Louisiana, south locally through Central America and throughout most of South America, south to northern and central Peru and northern Brazil. Casual north to central New Mexico and southwestern Mississippi. Records from Washington, Oregon, and California, and north to Wyoming, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are of individuals of "questionable origin" (AOU 1998, 2000).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total population size is very large but unknown. Using 1986 Christmas Bird Count data, Johnsgard (1990) estimated the U.S. population at 2280 birds, with nearly all of these in Texas.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: In the U.S., declines have been associated with conversion of habitat to agriculture, residential development, and illegal shooting and trapping; increase in roads and traffic has resulted in increased mortality as the birds feed on road kills. Range has expanded in tropical America concurrent with deforestation; invasion of woody species with overgrazing tends to degrade habitat and result in declines (Ellis et al. 1988). In Texas, Dickinson (1995, Wilson Bull. 107:761-762) observed two instances of red imported fire ant predation on caracara hatchlings.

Short-term Trend Comments: Overall trend unknown. The Florida population has undergone a long-term decline through the 1900s; in the mid-1970s it was estimated at a minimum of 350-400 (Evans 1982, USFWS 1987); in 1987 at 300 adults and about 200 immatures (less than 1/3 of population in 1900); and in 1990 at a minimum of 500 individuals (USFWS 1990). The range in Florida has shrunk as well; it formerly ranged commonly from northern Brevard County south to Fort Pierce, Lake Okeechobee, and Rocky Lake (Hendry County), but it is now only rarely found as far north as Orlando or east of the St. Johns River; it is most abundant in five-county area (Glades, De Soto, Highlands, Okeechobee, and Osceola counties) north and west of Lake Okeechobee (Matthews and Moseley 1990). Small numbers occur in Arizona, where the range is probably as large now as formerly (Ellis et al. 1988). In Texas, has declined in recent decades, but now increasing over much of its range there (Ellis et al. 1988).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) RESIDENT: in central and southern Florida, Cuba, and the Isle of Pines, and from northern Baja California, southern Arizona, Sonora, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Nuevo Leon, central and southern Texas, and southwestern Louisiana, south locally through Central America and throughout most of South America, south to northern and central Peru and northern Brazil. Casual north to central New Mexico and southwestern Mississippi. Records from Washington, Oregon, and California, and north to Wyoming, Ontario, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are of individuals of "questionable origin" (AOU 1998, 2000).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZ, FL, LA, NMextirpated, TX

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; NatureServe, 2005


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Pima (04019), Pinal (04021)
FL Brevard (12009), Broward (12011), Charlotte (12015), Collier (12021), DeSoto (12027), Glades (12043), Hardee (12049), Hendry (12051), Highlands (12055), Indian River (12061), Lee (12071), Manatee (12081), Martin (12085)*, Okeechobee (12093), Orange (12095), Osceola (12097), Palm Beach (12099), Polk (12105), Sarasota (12115), St. Lucie (12111)
ID Butte (16023)
LA Calcasieu (22019), Cameron (22023)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Vero Beach (03080203)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Northern Okeechobee Inflow (03090102)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Lake Okeechobee (03090201)+, Everglades (03090202)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Caloosahatchee (03090205)+, Florida Southeast Coast (03090206)+, Peace (03100101)+, Myakka (03100102)+, Charlotte Harbor (03100103)+*, Sarasota Bay (03100201)+*, Manatee (03100202)+
08 Lower Calcasieu (08080206)+
12 Lower Sabine (12010005)+
15 Middle Gila (15050100)+, Upper Santa Cruz (15050301)+, Lower Santa Cruz (15050303)+, Brawley Wash (15050304)+
17 Little Lost (17040217)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A large raptorial bird.
General Description: A large diurnal raptor with a hooked bill, long legs, long wings (bent back at the wrist in flight), large head, and long neck; mainly black-brown, with a white throat and neck and bare red facial skin; crown is black and crested; immature has pale edging on dark feathers of upperside and is streaked below; tail whitish, with a black band at the end; average length 58 cm, wingspan 127 cm (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: No other similar bird has all of the following characteristics: black crown, white neck, black belly, whitish tail with black band at end, and a white patch at the end of the dark wings.
Reproduction Comments: Egg dates: late December-early April (mainly late January-February) in Florida (but nestling several weeks old has been observed in late December), late January-early June (peak March-April) in Texas, March-August in Mexico, mostly dry season in Colombia. Clutch size usually is 2-3. Incubation lasts about 30-32 days, by both sexes but probably mostly by female. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at about 8 weeks; Johnsgard (1990) questioned that the nestling period is this long. Family stays together about 2-3 months after fledging. Usually one brood each season.
Ecology Comments: Maintains large territory, usually with mate. In Florida, home range width for breeding adults varied from 4.6-9.8 kilometers, average 6 kilometers (Morrison 1996). Most activity occurred within 2-3 kilometers of nest (Morrison 1996). May aggregate (especially at carrion) in groups of up to about 10 in nonbreeding season. Prebreeders occasionally form aggregations (Palmer 1988). Density was estimated at 4.8 birds per 40 ha in eastern Mexico (see Johnsgard 1990).
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral
Habitat Comments: Open country, including pastureland, cultivated areas, and semidesert, in both arid and moist habitats but more commonly in the former (AOU 1983); also coastal lowlands and beaches in some areas. Often occurs on the ground in company of vultures (National Geographic Society 1983).

Florida: associated with open country; dry prairie with scattered cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto), wetter prairies, and to some extent also improved pastures and sometimes even rather wooded areas having associated limited areas of open grassland (Johnsgard 1990); center of range is the Kissimmee Prairie, an area of shallow ponds and sloughs with scattered hummocks of live oaks and cabbage palms (see Johnsgard 1990).

Nests in trees, usually in site concealed among branches or palm fronds (often in cabbage palm in Florida, oak or Yucca in Texas), or in cacti; 2.5-15+ m above ground. In treeless areas may nest on rock ledge or under overhanging rocks, or on ground in secluded site such as marsh island. In Texas, typically nests in brush or woodlands on prairies or hill slopes (Oberholser 1974). Nests often are reused from year to year (Johnsgard 1990).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds opportunistically on carrion (and associated insect larvae), various live vertebrates, insects, and worms (Bent 1938, Evans 1982). Commonly utilizes road kills. May "rob" food from vultures. See Palmer (1988) for accounts of predation on eggs of birds and turtles. Pairs may hunt together.
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 58 centimeters
Weight: 953 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: Ellis et al. (1988) recommended using supplemental feeding and modifying habitats to encourage recolonization of previously occupied areas and movement into new areas.

Florida: see recovery plan (1989).

Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of breeding (including historical); and potential recurring breeding at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs with occupied nests in appropriate habitat.
Mapping Guidance: Occurrence includes not only the nest sites, but also the surrounding areas used for feeding during the nesting season.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 20 km
Separation Justification: Separations are based on nest sites; nests that are separated by a gap less than the separation distance are included in the same occurrence.

Separation distance is arbitrary and does not attempt to yield occurrences that represent discrete populations. Instead, it is a compromise between the high mobility of these birds and the need for occurrences that are of practical size for conservation purposes. In Florida, home range width varied from 4.6-9.8 kilometers, average 6 kilometers (Morrison 1996).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 6 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on average home range width in Florida (Morrison 1996).
Date: 22Sep2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 08Sep2000
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.; revised by S. Cannings
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 22Mar1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Allen, C. R., S. Demarais, and R. S. Lutz. 1994. Red imported fire ant impact on wildlife: an overview. The Texas Journal of Science 46(1):51-59.

  • Alves, V. S., A. B. A. Soares, G. S. do Couto, A. B. B. Ribeiro, and M. A. Efe. 1997. Aves do Arquipelago dos Abrolhos, Bahia, Brasil. Ararajuba 5:209-218.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1993. Thirty-ninth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 110:675-82.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 2000. Forty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk 117:847-858

  • Banks, R. C., and M. R. Browning. 1995. Comments on the status of revived old names for some North American birds. Auk 112:633-648.

  • Bent, A. C. 1938. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Part 2. U.S. Nat. Mus. Bull. 170. 482 pp., 92 pls.

  • BirdLife International. 2004b. Threatened birds of the world 2004. CD ROM. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

  • Braun, M. J., D. W. Finch, M. B. Robbins, and B. K. Schmidt. 2000. A field checklist of the birds of Guyana. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

  • Dove, C. J. and R. C. Banks. 1999. A taxonomic study of Crested Caracaras (Falconidae). Wilson Bulletin 111:330-339.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy: the Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

  • Ellis, D. H., et al. 1988. Crested caracara. Pages 119-126 in Glinski et al., eds. Proc. Southwest raptor management symposium and workshop. Nat. Wildl. Fed. Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 11.

  • Evans, D. L. 1982. Status reports on twelve raptors. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Special Scientific Report No. 238. 68 pp.

  • Harrison, C. 1978. A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

  • Hilty, S.L. and W. L. Brown. 1986. A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA. 836 pp.

  • Howell, S. N. G., and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

  • Johnsgard, P. A. 1990. Hawks, eagles, and falcons of North America. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C. xvi + 403 pp.

  • Jones, H. L., P. Balderamos, J. Caulfield, A. Caulfield, G. Crawford, T. M. Donegan, E. McRae, M. Meadows, M. Muschamp, P. Saqui, V. Spek, J. Urbina, and B. Zimmer. 2002. Fourteen new bird species for Belize. Cotinga 17:33-42.

  • Morrison, J. L. 1996. Crested Caracara (CARACARA PLANCUS). No. 249 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, editors. The birds of North America. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The Amerian Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC. 28pp.

  • National Geographic Society (NGS). 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.

  • Oberholser, H.C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. 2 vols. Univ. of Texas Press, Austin.

  • Palmer, R. S., ed. 1988b. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 5. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven. 465 pp.

  • Pendleton, B. A. G., B. A. Millsap, K. W. Cline, and D. M. Bird. 1987. Raptor management techniques manual. National Wildlife Federation, Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 10. 420 pp.

  • Raffaele, H., J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. 1998. A guide to the birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 511 pp.

  • Ridgely, R. S. 2002. Distribution maps of South American birds. Unpublished.

  • Ridgely, R. S. and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.

  • Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe, Jr. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. xxiv + 1111 pp.

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000a. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Stiles, F. G. and A. F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 511 pp.

  • Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1990. Endangered and threatened species recovery program: report to Congress. 406 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 6 July 1987. Federal Register.

  • Zook, J. L. 2002. Distribution maps of the birds of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Unpublished.

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