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Crested Caracara - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Mexican Eagle, Mexican Buzzard, Northern Caracara

Photo © by JBerard
Florida, USA, February 2006
Caracara cheriway


Photo © by bobsofpa
Viera Wetlands, Florida, USA, February 2008

L. 21 in (54 cm)
W. 48 in (120 cm)

  • Distinctive shape
  • Long neck and legs
  • In flight, a large and conspicuous whitish patch ("window") can be seen in the primaries
  • Tail is pale with faint barring and a dark tip

Similar Species

Very similar to the closely related Southern Caracara.


Subspecies audubonii
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Marlin, Falls County, Texas, USA, December 2018

North, Central and northern South America.

In North America breeds in southern Arizona, southern Texas and east along the Gulf Coast into Louisiana and in south-central Florida. Also a rare breeder in southern New Mexico and breeds from Baja California and northern Mexico south to Panama.

In South America it occurs throughout most of the Guianas, Venezuela, Colombia, Western Ecuador, North-western Peru, and Northern Brazil as far south as the Rio Amazon region. Also breeds in Cuba and the Isle of Pines and has occurred as a vagrant in Jamaica.

Common over most of range, but scarcer in the USA.



Also known as the Northern Caracara, Mexican Eagle, Caracara Eagle, King Buzzard, Audubon’s Caracara, and Mexican Buzzard.
Previously considered conspecific with the Southern Caracara. Following the split, the Crested Caracara become Caracara cheriway, while the Southern is Caracara plancus. Sometimes also includes the now extinct Guadalupe Caracara.


Courting behaviour
Photo © by Robert Davis
Rio Grande, Texas, April 2016

There are 3 subspecies[1]:

  • C. c. pallidus:
  • Tres Marías Islands (off western Mexico)
  • C. c. audubonii:
  • C. c. cheriway:


A range of habitats including arid scrubland and semi-desert, open woodland and riverine woodland, savanna with scattered trees, mangrove swamps and shorelines in some areas. Often near humans. Generally avoids densely forested regions (e.g. the Amazon), where largely restricted to the vicinity of rivers.



This bird will feed on snakes, lizards, fish, turtle eggs, small mammals, and other live animals, but will readily feed on carrion as well. The name in Spanish is Caracara quebrantajuesos, which means bone breaker. They crack open and eat the marrow from carrion bones.


Nominate subspecies
Photo © by DABS
La Brea, Trinidad, January 2019

Nests in trees, shrubs, or cactus. Usually lays 2 or three eggs.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BF Member observations

Recommended Citation

External Links