Caracara (genus)

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Crested Caracara JCB.jpg
Crested caracara at the Tárcoles River, Costa Rica
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Tribe: Caracarini
Genus: Caracara
Merrem, 1826

and see text

Map showing range of the genus Caracara
Range of the genus Caracara


Caracara is a genus in the family Falconidae and the subfamily Polyborinae. This genus consists of two extant species, the Northern and Southern crested caracara, and one extinct species, the Guadalupe caracara. The only visible difference between the two living species is that the southern species possesses more barred plumage than the northern species. The minor physical differences between these species resulted in their originally being classified as a single species.


The Northern and Southern caracara are the only living examples of the modern Caracara genus.

Image Scientific name Common name Distribution
Caracara cheriway -Brevard Zoo-8a.jpg Caracara cheriway Northern caracara[1] Cuba, northern South America (south to northern Peru and northern Amazonian Brazil) and most of Central America and Mexico, just reaching the southernmost parts of the United States, including Florida
Schopfkarakara.jpg Caracara plancus Southern caracara[1] Tierra del Fuego in southernmost South America north to the Amazon River region and southern Peru.

Prehistoric extinctions[edit]

Known from fossil records:

  • Bahaman caracara (Caracara creightoni) – Late Pleistocene[2]
  • Terrestrial caracara (Caracara tellustris) –Late Pleistocene [3]
  • Caracara major (Venezuela)- Late Pleistocene[4]
  • †Puerto Rican caracara (Caracara latebrosus) –Late Pleistocene[5]
  • †Seymour's caracara Caracara seymouri (Peru, Ecuador)- Late Pleistocene[6]

Prehistoric records[edit]

The fossil record proves the long history of the mainland "Crested Caracaras". Remains of Northern Caracaras, slightly larger than those of modern times but otherwise identical, were found in the famous La Brea Tar Pits.[7] In addition, the Guadalupe Caracara may derive from an already distinct population of Northern Caracara in western Mexico that, subsequently, was displaced by the main continental population.


  1. ^ a b c "Caracara". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
  2. ^ Steadman, David W.; Franz, Richard; Morgan, Gary S.; Albury, Nancy A.; Kakuk, Brian; Broad, Kenneth; Franz, Shelley E.; Tinker, Keith; Pateman, Michael P.; Lott, Terry A.; Jarzen, David M.; Dilcher, David L. (2007). "Exceptionally well preserved late Quaternary plant and vertebrate fossils from a blue hole on Abaco, The Bahamas". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (50): 19897–19902. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709572104. PMC 2148394. PMID 18077421.
  3. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (2008). "A New Species of Large, Terrestrial Caracara from Holocene Deposits in Southern Jamaica (Aves: Falconidae)". Journal of Raptor Research. The Raptor Research Foundation. 42 (4): 265–272. doi:10.3356/JRR-08-18.1.
  4. ^ "Body Mass Estimations and Paleobiological Inferences on a New Species of Large Caracara (Aves, Falconidae) from the Late Pleistocene of Uruguay". ResearchGate. doi:10.2307/23353814. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  5. ^ Hume, Julian P.; Walters, Michael (2012-03-19). Extinct Birds. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408158623.
  6. ^ Suárez, William; Olson, Storrs L. (2014-09-01). "A new fossil species of small crested caracara (Aves: Falconidae: Caracara) from the Pacific lowlands of western South America". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 127 (2): 299–310. doi:10.2988/0006-324X-127.2.299. ISSN 0006-324X.
  7. ^ Guthrie, Daniel A. (1992). "A Late Pleistocene Avifauna from San Miguel Island, California" (PDF). Los Angeles County Natural History Museum Science Series. 36: 319–327.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Photo of crested caracara at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas : [1]