Family Falcons, Caracaras (Falconidae)

Least Concern

Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima)


French: Caracara à tête jaune German: Gelbkopfkarakara Spanish: Caracara chimachima

Polyborus chimachima


, 1816,



Previously thought possibly closest to Phalcoboenus chimango, which was then placed in present genus, and both species sometimes included in Polyborus (= Caracara); recent molecular study, however, indicates that the two are not close relatives, and not even congeners#R. Described form paludivaga (from Suriname) is a synonym of cordata, and strigilata (R Xingu, in E Brazil) of nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. c. cordata Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1918 – SW Nicaragua#R, W Costa Rica and Panama (including Pearl Is) through Colombia to the Guianas and Trinidad, and S (E of Andes) to Amazon.
  • M. c. chimachima (Vieillot, 1816) – E Bolivia and Brazil S of Amazon to Paraguay, N Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    40–45 cm; male 277–335 g, female 307–364 g; wingspan 74–95 cm. Sexes similar, but female averages marginally larger and slightly heavier. It has... read more


    Very noisy in squabbles for food or when breeding. Commonest vocalizations are wailing "keeeah... read more


    Open country with scattered trees, ranchland, pastures, palm savannas, forest edge and along rivers... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous: carrion, from small roadkills to dead crocodiles; insects, including many caterpillars, and leaf-cutter ant alates; frogs and... read more


    Season appears to be protracted: Aug (wet season) in Venezuela; laying in May in Guyana; Sept in S Brazil and Jul–Aug in C Brazil.... read more


    Little evidence of any movements, but appears to respond positively to deforestation, colonizing... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Widespread and very common. Perhaps colonizing deforested highlands in Andes, while range has been expanding through Costa... read more

    Recommended citation

    Bierregaard, R.O., Jr, Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima). 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 1 April 2020).