It is seldom a “casual birder” such as myself gets a chance to learn much about individual birds other than what we observe, photograph or read in a field guide. On a recent trip to Viera Wetlands (see the post “East Coast Adventure”), I photographed a Crested Caracara as it flew rapidly overhead. While processing the photo, I was able to read the identification on the colored band and part of the serial number on the metal band on the bird’s leg.
This information was submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory in Maryland at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. I received a nicely detailed response a couple of weeks later and thought I’d post the information here for anyone interested.
“Thank you for submitting your recent sighting of a crested caracara to the Bird Banding office. It is always good when we researchers get a reliable sighting of a color band. Here is the information about that caracara.
This caracara was banded on 10/16/2006 in Viera Wetlands Park. At that time it was aged as After Second Year, which means it was already in adult plumage and thus at least 3 years old. At this time, we believe that caracaras attain the full adult black and white plumage at age 3 years, but we do not know for sure. See the reference (Morrison and Dwyer 2012) for further information on plumages and ages. This caracara was sexed by genetic analysis as Male. So this caracara is at least 9 years old! Since you observed it in relatively the same area in which it was banded, we can probably assume it has a nesting territory there in or near Viera Wetlands Park, and that it has probably been there all this time. Caracaras are extremely site faithful to their nesting territories and they remain there all year round. Florida’s caracara population is resident, individuals do not migrate.
Thanks again for your information and if you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact me. For additional information about the species, please refer to the Birds of North America account maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Crested_Caracara/id
Joan L. Morrison, Ph.D
Professor of Biology
300 Summit St.
Hartford, CT 06106-3100
Morrison, Joan L. and James F. Dwyer. 2012. Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/249 doi:10.2173/bna.249“
Here is the subject bird.
I found the information about the adult attaining full black and white plumage at about age 3 to be interesting. We observed a Caracara last week in Highlands County with “grayish” head and neck feathers and surmised at the time it might be an immature bird. The above seems to support that theory.
Crested Caracara in Highlands County, possibly 2-3 years old. Note the contrast in relative “whiteness” in the adult bird above.
One more comparison. This adult Caracara was photographed at Lake Kissimmee a few weeks ago (Overstreet Landing) and you can also see how white it’s head and neck appears compared to the bird above from Highlands County.
We appreciate Dr.Morrison taking the time and effort to respond and provide information which we don’t usually get a chance to discover.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!