Crested Caracara – An Update

It is seldom a “casual birder” such as myself gets a chance to learn much about individual birds other than what we observe, photograph or read in a field guide.  On a recent trip to Viera Wetlands (see the post “East Coast Adventure”), I photographed a Crested Caracara as it flew rapidly overhead.  While processing the photo, I was able to read the identification on the colored band and part of the serial number on the metal band on the bird’s leg.

This information was submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Maryland at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  I received a nicely detailed response a couple of weeks later and thought I’d post the information here for anyone interested.


“Thank you for submitting your recent sighting of a crested caracara to the Bird Banding office.  It is always good when we researchers get a reliable sighting of a color band.  Here is the information about that caracara.

This caracara was banded on 10/16/2006 in Viera Wetlands Park.  At that time it was aged as After Second Year, which means it was already in adult plumage and thus at least 3 years old.  At this time, we believe that caracaras attain the full adult black and white plumage at age 3 years, but we do not know for sure.  See the reference (Morrison and Dwyer 2012) for further information on plumages and ages.  This caracara was sexed by genetic analysis as Male.  So this caracara is at least 9 years old!  Since you observed it in relatively the same area in which it was banded, we can probably assume it has a nesting territory there in or near Viera Wetlands Park, and that it has probably been there all this time.  Caracaras are extremely site faithful to their nesting territories and they remain there all year round.  Florida’s caracara population is resident, individuals do not migrate.

Thanks again for your information and if you have further questions please  do not hesitate to contact me.  For additional information about the species, please refer to the Birds of North America account maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology



Joan L. Morrison, Ph.D

Professor of Biology

Trinity College

300 Summit St.

Hartford, CT 06106-3100

ph: 860-297-4120

fax: 860-297-2538



Morrison, Joan L. and James F. Dwyer. 2012. Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: doi:10.2173/bna.249


Here is the subject bird.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara


I found the information about the adult attaining full black and white plumage at about age 3 to be interesting.  We observed a Caracara last week in Highlands County with “grayish” head and neck feathers and surmised at the time it might be an immature bird.  The above seems to support that theory.


Crested Caracara in Highlands County, possibly 2-3 years old.  Note the contrast in relative “whiteness” in the adult bird above.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara


One more comparison.  This adult Caracara was photographed at Lake Kissimmee a few weeks ago (Overstreet Landing) and you can also see how white it’s head and neck appears compared to the bird above from Highlands County.


Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara


We appreciate Dr.Morrison taking the time and effort to respond and provide information which we don’t usually get a chance to discover.


Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “Crested Caracara – An Update

  1. Good for you — and Beautiful pictures of this bird! And especially thank you for the information.

  2. I agree with all of the other comments … such lovely photos. I have yet to see a Caracara and would love to. This magic-light representation is perfect.

  3. Wally your shots are extraordinary- the info you learn and pass on is an added bonus for all of us. I’ve yet to encounter one- thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Beautiful birds. I came to know names of so many birds today. Thank you.

  5. How wonderful that you were able to read the ID band and then get more information! These are gorgeous shots. I’ve never seen or heard of the Caracara before. Interesting that it is in the Falcon family.

  6. Amazing birds. I’ve not seen one here. It’s so interesting to see the different varieties in various places. The photography is wonderful. Great post and information on this fabulous bird!

    • Gail, thank you for visiting! They are pretty much birds of desert and dry grass prairie areas. They’re more common in Mexico, Central and South America. Here in Florida, it’s estimated there are only about 500 and they’re pretty localized to the south-central part of the state.

  7. Wally, I am fascinated by your caracaras becuase it is a family of birds wed o not see in the UK and i struggle to put them into a family i recognise. However I rathwer like looking at your photographs of them, so keep them coming. I hope your sighting has encouraged others to report ringed(banded) birds.

    • Hi, Phil! The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is actually in the Falcon family. It was interesting to learn of this fellow’s history!

  8. So wonderful to see such fantastic shots of these guys…. And great to learn about him! People don’t realize how long these guys can live (the larger guys) — if they did, there would probably be a lot more respect. Such a beauty!!

  9. Very interesting narrative and information about plumage development in the caracara. We found a banded Sandhill Crane and likewise were able to read enough of the band to permit it to be identified. Like you, we received much information about the bird and realized the importance of such reports in understanding the biology of a species. (PS– we seem to be back on the Internet after almost at week of extremely limited connectivity).

    • Ken, hope your connection issues are resolved. It was an enlightening experience and we find that now we’re even more attentive as to whether a bird has a band or marker.
      (Hope your family is healing!)

  10. How wonderful to be able to find more info about your sighting!

  11. Great information and great shots! This bird is on the top of my “get” list. My goal is to get over to Joe Overstreet in the next couple of months.

    • Dina, at the boat ramp, looking at the lake, walk to the left along the fence row (beyond the picnic tables) and open, grassy area. The caracaras and eagles usually perch on the fence posts.

  12. TexWisGirl

    just wonderful birds! love that you got to find out more about that particular subject. 9 yrs. old – wonderful!

    • It was pretty neat, sort of like getting to know someone a little better. I appreciate your visits and really nice comments – thank you!

      • TexWisGirl

        there was one day last week i tried and tried to get your page to load but it wouldn’t happen. i try not to miss any of your posts, though. 🙂

      • I’m sorry you had a problem! 😦
        I really ought to be more diligent about paying those bills……….

      • TexWisGirl

        LOL! 🙂

  13. jimbey

    …. It really is nice to “hear the story” of a banded bird that you run across – particularly one that has achieved a ripe age in this day of habitat loss. All your caracara photos are great, and welcome. I have yet to see one down here in the Palm Beach County wetlands – they mainly stick to central FL.

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