Southern Caracara

(Caracara plancus)


Southern Caracara IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Southern Caracara is characterized a dark brownish-black forehead, crown and nape. The crown extends back as a short crest. The chin, throat, cheek and ear coverts are white or pale brownish-yellow. The bare skin in front of the eye is red (turning yellow when excited). The upper back feathers are whitish with wedge shaped black tips. The lower back is brownish with white bars. The breast is whitish, heavily barred blackis brown, becoming almost solid blackish brown on the abdomen, and turning to white barred with lighter brown on the under tail coverts. The wings are dark brownish-black. The legs and feet are yellow and the bill is bluish at the base and tipped whitish or yellowish.

Adult pairs are generally monogamous and highly territorial exhibiting strong site fidelity. The pair bond is maintained year-round, and individuals may remain paired for many years. They build a nest in tallest vegetation or tree-like structure commanding wide view. The nests are bulky yet woven. They may be re-used for several years. A clutch consists of 2 eggs, sometimes 1 or 3, rarely 4, which are incubated by both parents for 30-33 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge at an age of 7-8 weeks.

Caracaras feed on insects; small and occasionally large vertebrates, including fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals; eggs; and carrion of all types. They cannot open large carcasses; but wait for vultures or heat to effect opening. They are suspected of attacking and killing newborn lambs and goats, for which they have suffered heavy persecution; but here is little evidence to suggest that killing actually occurs.

Did you know?
that there was formerly only one recognized species, Polyborus plancus which has just recently split into two species and transferred to the genus Caracara. The two species are now the Southern Caracara (Caracara plancus) and the Northern Caracara (Caracara cheriway). The Northern Caracara occurs from southern USA to northern South America. Both species meet in the region of the Amazon river.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Caracara plancus
Name (English) Southern Caracara
Name (French) Caracara huppé
Name (German) Schopfkarakara
Name (Spanish) Carancho
Local names Brasil: Caracará, Caricare encrestado
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Appendix II (as Falconidae spp.)



Photo Copyright by
Dario Sanches



Range From the Amazon River south to the tip of South America
Habitat Open and semi-open country; pastures, palm savannas, river edges and especially ranch land, sometimes in forested and marshy areas. Mainly in lowlands.
Wild population Unknown, but it is not listed as a threatened species, and it seems to be quite common in its range area.
Zoo population Southern and Northern Caracara: 137 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Southern Caracara


How this animal should be transported

Untrained birds travel better in completely dark boxes, with a carpeted floor and roof, with an upwards sliding door at one end and no perch. As a general rule, trained birds are easier to manage in boxes with a carpeted perch at the right height to give plenty of head and tail room, and with a hinged side opening door.

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Luis Argerich

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Southern Caracara is not a threatened species. zoos keep it primarily for educational purposes, because it is a very conspicuous raptor typical for most of Latin-America, and the national bird of Mexico.

The caracara is sometimes displayed in fligh shows.