Monday, February 18, 2013

Que cara, cara!

Species highlight: the crested caracara

I had my very first wild sighting of the Crested Caracara yesterday, so I decided to share my enthusiasm and highlight this raptor on this week’s blog post).

Crested Caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii) (information extracted from the Fish and Wildlife Multi-species recovery Plan) [link below]

Federal Status: Threatened (July 6, 1987)
Critical Habitat: None Designated
Florida Status: Threatened
Recovery Plan Status: Revision (May 18, 1999)
Geographic Coverage: Rangewide

The crested Caracara is a non-migratory, diurnal raptor species that occurs in the southern United States and Central America. The Florida population is isolated from the remainder of the subspecies and is listed under the Endangered Species Act. There are no specific management activities for this species.

The following illustration shows distribution of the caracara in Florida. “The region of greatest abundance for this subspecies is a five-county area north and west of Lake Okeechobee, including Glades, Desoto, Highlands, Okeechobee, and Osceola counties” (FWS).

Habitat: The Florida population commonly occurs in praire areas (dry or wet), and scattered cabbage palms. Widespread land use changes have altered the preferred habitat of the Florida caracara. They now seem to have adapted to improved pasture land; with the seasonal appearance of wetlands to these areas being an important factor.

Diet:  Caracaras are opportunistic feeders. They eat both carrion and live prey; with a variety of species (e.g. fish, snakes, mammals, birds, insects).

Reproduction:  The Caracara live long lives and have been recorded 20+ years old. Little is known about their breeding habits or when breeding begins. Their pair bond is strong and the birds remain together until a mate dies. Clutch size is two eggs. Incubation lasts for about 28 days and is shared by both sexes. Ordinarily only one brood is raised per season (FWS).

Status and Trends: Their populations in the United States have been in decline. Actual estimates are hard to assess. In 1991, Stevenson estimated the adult population in Florida to be 300; and the immature population to be 100-200, making the statewide population to be 400-500 birds.

The Crested Caracara is listed as threatened by the ESA in the United States. For more details you may read the full species recovery plan at the link below.


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