Identification: This unlikely member of the falcon family is also called the Mexican eagle or the Mexican Buzzard, and can be seen on the national seal of Mexico. The Crested Caracara is a large, long-legged bird, 20-25 inches in length, with a wingspread of 48-50 inches. Identified by a black crest, bare red face, white throat, wing tips and tail base, this bird also exhibits a black band at the tip of the tail and flaps its wings almost constantly while in flight.
Range & Habitat: This species occurs in the prairie regions of central and southern Texas, and from lower New Mexico south to Panama. Declining in Florida, the Caracara is found only in the open country and prairies from north of Lake Okeechobee to Kissimmee.
Reproduction: Caracaras build a nest of twigs, grasses, and weeds lined with leaves and mosses. Preferred spots for the nest include palmetto hammocks or live oaks. The female lays 2-3 white eggs, heavily spotted and blotched with brown, and both sexes incubate them for about 28 days.
Diet: The diet of the Caracara is probably the most varied of any raptor. It often accompanies and dominates vultures at sites of fresh kills or carrion and will also capture and consume small mammals, reptiles, and insects.
Remarks: Classified as a threatened species, major factors in the Caracara's decline include habitat destruction, highway mortality and illegal trapping. The false belief that this species will prey upon newborn calves has also contributed to the decline, as these birds are often victims of shootings by farmers.