Caracara, a large bird related to the falcon. Its name, Spanish for “carrion eater,” refers to its habit of eating decaying animal flesh. There are seven species of caracaras. They have long necks, hooked beaks, and long legs, and can run swiftly along the ground.

The only North American species is the crested caracara, also known as Audubon's caracara. It is found from southern Florida south to South America. The bird has a black crest, red face, blackish-gray body, and yellow legs. There are white patches on the neck and chest and on the tip of the tail. The bird grows to a length of 24 inches (60 cm). The female lays three buff eggs with reddish-brown markings. The nest is made of sticks.

Who Will Do Anything for a Meal?

Birds known as caracaras (kahr uh KAHR uhz) will. Caracaras eat many different things and hunt in several different ways, too.

Although they are in the falcon family, caracaras often eat carrion like vultures do. But unlike vultures, caracaras also prey on live animals. They feed on insects, reptiles, birds, and small mammals. They can also catch small fish that live in ponds or streams. Sometimes, these birds will even eat food that isn’t meat. When they are really hungry, caracaras will eat fruits or seeds.

The crested caracara lives from the southern United States to South America. This bird likes to fly low while searching for prey. Like the secretary bird, the crested caracara will also hunt by running in the grass. It has long legs and is quite fast. A caracara might be found chasing a jackrabbit or wrestling with a snake. A caracara will do just about anything for a meal.

Caracaras belong to the falcon family, Falconidae. The crested caracara is Polyborus plancus, or P. cheriway.