Order: Falconiformes – Family: Falconidae
It shares this group with falcons. These predatory species have distinctive anatomical characteristics, beak and talons, adapted to tear flesh, basic component of their diet.
The caracara´s beak is robust and has sharp cutting edges. An orange or red naked soft skin covers practically half beak including the nares . The upper part of the beak (rhinotec) is longer than the lower one (gnathotec). The distal extreme which extends past the lower mandible strongly curves down giving the beak a hook-like appearance. It is adapted to kill a live prey by biting the neck. If the prey is dead, the caracara holds it with its talons to hook the point of the beak into the flesh. Then it pulls it out and tears it apart.
The talons are neither so strong nor so curved as in falcons´. Its long and strong legs are adapted to walk. That is way, it is common to see the caracara wandering on the ground. Among birds of prey the caracara is the most terrestrial of all.
|Left: Naked skin around the eye: typical feature of carrion eaters.
Center: Three fingers oriented forward and one backward ending in a claw-like appendige.
Right: Beak and talon, two tools which complement each other when feeding.
Eating a Rock Pigeon
© Roberto Ares
The caracara is opportunistic. It alternates its feeding techniques: it hunts or scavenges depending on the opportunity. It is not a typical hunter like raptors which swoop down on the prey. It descends to the ground and runs after the prey to reach it. The caracara chooses small or helpless preys.
It is basically a carrion feeder. It is common to see the caracara flying over terrestrial and aquatic environments or walking on the ground in search for carrion. Right time, too, to peck for insect larvae, reptiles and worms, which complete its diet.
Analysing the encounter, the result is an egg. Not that bad!
Photos 2006 and 2007 © Roberto Ares