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Crested Caracara: Caracara cheriway

Appearance:

About the size of an osprey, this boldly patterned raptor has a crest, naked face, heavy bill and longish neck and legs.

Habitat:

Crested Caracara is a resident of the prairies and range lands of south-central Florida.

At one time, caracaras were common in the prairies of central Florida, but their numbers declined as favored habitat was converted to housing developments, citrus groves and improved pastures. Today, both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list the caracara as Threatened. This species is most abundant in a six-county area north and west of Lake Okeechobee (DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee and Osceola counties). Their stronghold is privately held ranch land, and biologists are working with landowners to better understand the needs of caracaras and the many wild animals dependent on these upland prairies.

Consider a visit to Forever Florida and the Crescent J Ranch, a private wilderness preserve and working cattle ranch near St. Cloud. Call (888) 957-9794 for more information.

Behavior:

A member of the falcon family, the caracara is a strong flier but spends a lot of time on the ground, scratching or digging for insects, or hunting around shallow ponds or marshes for turtles, snakes, frogs or fish. Caracaras occasionally eat larger animals such as rabbits and cattle egrets and a pair will sometimes work together to subdue these larger prey. Caracaras may also be spotted on fence posts or utility poles along highways where they scan roadways for roadkilled raccoons, opossums or armadillos.

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FWC Facts:
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