Bird of the Week: Crested Caracara

Once known as the “Mexican Eagle,” the Crested Caracara’s large size and heavy bill resemble a hawk’s, and its feeding habits– primarily carrion, along with the odd snake or frog– are those of a vulture. However, this striking black-and-white raptor is most closely related to falcons. The Crested Caracara is a tropical bird, and Texas is one of the few places in the United States where it can be seen. They can also be found in central Florida, but these birds are part of a relict population cut off from their fellows over 10,000 years ago. The Crested Caracara’s large size and distinctive appearance have earned it a place in American folklore since pre-Columbian times. In fact, it has been proposed that the Crested Caracara is the “eagle” which alighted with snake in its talons on a cactus in Lake Texcoco, showing the Aztec people their new capital city. The Crested Caracara is shown in Aztec codices as well, but Spanish historians interpreted these images as depicting Golden Eagles, so it’s an eagle which appears on the Mexican flag. The Crested Caracara can be found across central and southern Texas– almost anywhere its favorite food, roadkill, can be found.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
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