Crested Caracara

Scientific Name: Caracara cheriway


Crested caracara in tree | Jim Burns
Crested caracara in tree | Jim Burns

These birds of prey prefer low and open countryside, such as savannas, pastures, river edges and ranches. The crested caracara can be found in the southwestern United States and Florida, Central America and South America.

Refuges where the crested Caracara can be found:


The Florida population–an isolated, relict group–is listed as a threatened species. The caracara’s habitat is under siege both from development and from increasing temperatures.


Crested caracara | Sandra Noll
Crested caracara | Sandra Noll

In contrast to its fast-flying relatives in the falcon family, the crested caracara is slow-moving and often forages on the ground. Its common name comes from South America and probably imitates the sound of its call.

Adults have black feathers on their body, wings and crown, with patches of white on their neck and tail. Caracaras prefer carrion (animal carcasses), but they will also feed on small mammals, reptiles, fish, crab, insects and young birds–or steal food from other birds. Caracaras usually build large stick nests in cacti or trees, but, if necessary, they will nest on the ground.

 What NWRA is doing:

Beyond the Boundaries: Everglades

Help us protect important habitat in Florida for the crested caracara and other animals. NWRA’s Beyond the Boundaries: Everglades program is working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to conserve land, water and wildlife in the Greater Everglades. Stretching from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in the north to Big Cypress National Preserve in the south, the Greater Everglades contains dry prairies, longleaf pine savannas, expansive working ranchlands and seasonally wet grasslands. This relatively intact landscape provides both a home and a corridor for the rare, isolated population of caracaras in Florida.

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