Often seen on Peveto Beach and surrounding areas. The Crested Caracara looks like a hawk with its sharp beak and talons, behaves like a vulture, and is technically a large tropical black-and-white falcon. It is instantly recognizable standing tall on long yellow-orange legs with a sharp black cap set against a white neck and yellow-orange face. The Crested Caracara is a bird of open country and reaches only a few states in the southern U.S. It flies low on flat wings, and routinely walks on the ground.
The oldest recorded Crested Caracara was at least 21 years, 9 months old when it was identified by its band in 2015 in Florida. It was first banded in the same state in 1994.
Although it looks like a long-legged hawk the Crested Caracara is actually a falcon.
The Crested Caracara is the only falcon that collects material to build a nest. Other falcons lay their eggs in an old nest built by another species or in a scrape on the ground.
Crested Caracaras are not shy or reclusive and are generally easy to spot in the open landscapes they inhabit. They frequently perch on the tallest tree or structure around and fly low over the ground with their wings held flat (a great way to distinguish them from nearby vultures). Looking atop tall and isolated trees is one good way to find a Crested Caracara, but another good way is to look for vultures foraging on a carcass. There you will often find a caracara joining the feast. Although Crested Caracaras are in the falcon family, they regularly walk on the ground, so don't forget to scan the ground for them.
Information from the All About Birds website,
www.allaboutbirds.org, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Pictures by Jeff Landry