Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)

Least Concern

Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway)


French: Caracara du Nord German: Nordkarakara Spanish: Carancho norteño
Other common names: Northern Crested Caracara

Falco cheriway


, 1784,



Has normally been treated as conspecific with C. plancus, and also frequently with †C. lutosa. Recently split from former#R, from which differs in its breast with “dark spots or wedge-shaped bars, heavier posteriorly” vs “dark and light bars over entire breast area” (2); pale wedge-shaped patch with broad black bars on upper back, scapulars always black vs upper back and scapulars finely barred with no wedge-shaped patch (2); barred upper back, black lower back, white uppertail-coverts and barred tail vs upper back to tail barred (2); vent area pale vs dark (ns[1]); narrow hybrid zone (2). Northern birds have sometimes been separated as race audubonii (described from Florida), those of Sonora (NW Mexico) as ammophilus, and those of Tres Marías Is (off W Mexico) as pallida, but claimed differences in plumage tone appear to be due to wear and those of size to clinal variation#R. Monotypic.


S USA (Texas to Arizona; Florida) and Mexico (including Tres Marías Is) through Central America to Panama and Colombia, then E to the Guianas and S to N Peru and R Amazon (N Maranhão); also Cuba and I of Pines, and from Aruba (Leeward Antilles) to Trinidad.

Descriptive notes

49–58 cm; male 907–1305 g, female 1037–1387 g (Florida); wingspan 107–130 cm. Large caracara with blocky head, long neck and legs, blackish-brown... read more


Mostly silent around nest. When frightened or agitated, gives metallic-sounding rattles, cackles... read more


Uses broad range of habitats but favours open and semi-open areas: grassland, savanna, desert,... read more

Food and feeding

Highly opportunistic generalist feeder. Has often been said to feed primarily on carrion, but actually takes a wide variety of live... read more


Season prolonged, e.g. can nest year-round in Florida, although 96% of nests initiated from Oct–Mar. Nests with eggs found in Mar in... read more


Occurs year-round throughout range, but seasonal changes in numbers suggest local movements,... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Fairly common to locally abundant, but no hard data on population sizes over large areas. Conversion of farmland to citrus... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2020).