How The Peregrine Fund is Helping
The Peregrine Fund doesn't work directly with Northern Chimango Caracaras, but our efforts in scientific research, habitat conservation, education, and community development help conserve birds of prey around the world. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation.
Where They Live
The Chimango Caracara is found throughout southern South America. This bird prefers to soar, hunt, perch and nest in lowland, open areas. If you are in Chimango Caracara territory, search for it in savannas, farm fields, marshes, along the coast, and even in and around villages, and larger cities. In fact, it is the most common raptor in Santiago - Chile's capital and largest city.
What They do
Of all the other caracara species, the Chimango Caracara could be considered the most plain. But this doesn't mean it isn't a lovely bird of prey. It is mostly all brown, though it does have some darker streaking around the head and neck. Additionally, individuals in the northern part of their range are a bit lighter in color than their southern counterparts.
The saying "birds of a feather flock together" is quite appropriate for this species. It often can be found hanging out with 30 or more other caracaras!
Why They Need our Help
The Chimango Caracara is the most common raptor species in all of Argentina and Chile. Given the fact that it is does pretty well in areas also inhabited by humans, and might even benefit from some deforestation, the Chimango Caracara is doing quite well. It is categorized as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN.
What They Eat
Researchers have described this species as a "dietary opportunist." This basically means that the Chimango Caracara will feed on pretty much anything it can get its talons or beak on! It is quite an avid carrion feeder - and animals, both big and small, that are killed on roads are a major source of food for this sometimes-scavenger.
Another source of food for this bird are cows. But not in the way you might think. This caracara actually helps cows in an important way. This caracara spends time standing or walking along a cow's back. It is dutifully looking for ticks it can pick off the cattle and consume.
But, since this bird in essence eats anything it finds to be edible, it is also known to take turtle eggs on beaches, and bird eggs and nestlings from nests. It will hunt rodents, insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, larvae, worms, fish, shrimp, and even some toads, which are often avoided by most other predators.
You might even come across some Chimango Caracaras foraging for food in trash piles in city dumps, or around any other type of human habitation. It will hunt or forage in areas that have recently been burned. Large groups of caracaras have been known to follow farm equipment, such as plows, in the hopes of catching prey scared up by the machinery.
Nests, Eggs, and Young
Unlike other falcon species, the Chimango Caracara builds its own nest. Using dead sticks, both the male and female will carefully construct their nest, usually in the crotch or top of a relatively small tree. They sometimes nest on tops of poles or on cliffs. Once the nest is completed, the pair will place softer materials inside it. These materials include grass, horsehair, wool, and even man-made objects, such as rags. The pair of caracaras will sometimes nest directly on the ground - choosing to lay their eggs among tall grasses or rushes. No matter where this raptor chooses to make its nest, it usually does a good job of keeping it pretty well-concealed.
Just as this species will sometimes flock with many other individual caracaras, they sometimes will nest in loose groups as well. This is known as colonial nesting. At some a few sites in Argentina, researchers found over 70 pairs of Chimango Caracaras nesting nesting only 4–10 m apart, in an area no larger than around 1·5 hectares.
When the female is ready, she will lay 1-5 eggs, but usually she lays between 2-3. The eggs are a creamy-white color and patterned with reddish-brown markings. Just as both the male and female take on nest-building duties, they will also share all of the other tasks associated with breeding. They will both take turns incubating - which they must do for about 26-32 days.
After the nestlings hatch, they are covered in a yellowy down. Afer just a little over a month, this down will have been replaced with long and sleek flight feathers. The nestlings will be ready to fledge, or fly for the first time, when they are between 32–41 days old.
Chimango Caracara and the World Center for Birds of Prey
The World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. The visitor center offers interactive displays, tours, interesting videos and a children's room with activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes and a touch table for the curious mind. We also have several different birds of prey on display year-around. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Chimango Caracaras or any other birds of prey.
Bierregaard, R. O., G. M. Kirwan, and P. F. D. Boesman (2020). Chimango Caracara (Milvago chimango), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.chicar1.01
Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Chimango Caracara Milvago chimango. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 18 Aug. 2021