The Crested Caracara looks like a hawk, behaves like a vulture but is technically a falcon.

The Crested Caracara has characteristic of a hawk with its sharp beak and talons but it is technically a large tropical falcon. While it is classified as a falcon, its behavior is different as it often feeds on dead animals. They are opportunistic and may chase vultures away from road kills.

They are scavengers and hunters and their hunting techniques includes flying low to take small animals by surprise, flies along highways early in the morning to search for road kills, steals food from other birds and scratches on the ground for insects or digging up turtle eggs.

In Central and South America they are sometimes called the “Mexican Eagle”.


The Crested Caracara is medium sized with a dark brown and white body. It has long yellow-orange legs and orange skin around the bill. Its flat head is topped with shaggy dark brown crest. In flight, the under tail and outer flight feathers are white.


Crested Caracaras often fly close to the ground to quickly catch their prey. They are equally proficient at walking on the ground as they are in the air and it is common to see them walking in open fields or in groups of vultures.


Crested Caracaras inhabit open country including pastures, farmed areas, deserts and savannas. They like to sit on high structures like trees, poles and fences that offer a good view of the surrounding area.


Crested Caracaras are monogamous and they mate for life. They are the only falcons that collects material to build a nest. They are very territorial birds, defending their nest site where they return from year to year.

Where to see the Crested Caracara?

Crested Caracaras are not shy or reclusive and are normally easy to spot as they frequently perch on the tallest tree or structure in the area. They can also be seen among a group of vultures joining the feast on a carcass. Sometimes they can also be seen standing in an open field.

About this Bird

Family: The Crested Caracara are one of ten species of Caracara that are part of the Falcon family.

Location: Crested Caracara’s range extends across the southern U.S. (including parts of Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Florida) in addition to parts of Central and South America.

Size: Reaches a height of up to 26 inches with a wing span or up to 52 inches and weighs between 2.0 to 3.5 lbs.

Lifespan: In captivity they have lived for over 30 years but in the wild they have been known to live for 24 years.

Home Range: Evidence suggests that they do no usually move very far between birth and the the time they reproduce as adults.

Diet: Dead animals, small animals including rabbits, skunks, various birds, frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, young alligators, fish and large insects.

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