Caracara As A Yard Bird!


As I was returning from a visit to the Alva, FL, area where there are a number of interesting Lee County nature parks I was startled to see two crested caracaras (a federally threatened falcon) walking around in someone’s front yard along route 78 (see photo). The yard in this case was obviously a pasture and the birds sat on the front fence and then walked around the pasture flipping over cow “pies” and looking for insects.

It is very interesting that most of the remaining populations of this rare falcon in S. Florida are found in such surroundings- namely in pastures, not in more natural habitat. They feed on a variety of small invertebrate and vertebrate prey, and steal carrion from black vultures (the fancy name for this is kleptoparasitism). The survival of this vanishing bird is thus dependent on the maintenance of cattle ranches, since they apparently simulate the original dry prairie habitat which the caracara inhabited before the landscape was developed by humans.

So how wonderful would it be to have a country house in this area and look out and watch the caracaras forage in your yard?

Two other examples of such a close positive relation between cattle ranching and survival of rare wildlife are the grasshopper sparrow and the bog turtle, both of which occur in dry pastures and grazed wet meadows (respectively) in the Galax, VA, area near our farm.

Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA

Bill Dunson

About Bill Dunson

Bill Dunson, born in rural Georgia, skipped 12th grade and went directly to Yale. Bill subsequent-ly received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Michigan, studying softshell turtles. Bill is Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University thanks to a career spent entirely at that institution, teaching and doing research on the physio-logical ecology and ecotoxiciology of reptiles, amphibians and fish. Always curious about nature, Bill has dedicated his life to learning and sharing his knowledge with others. He has served on many advisory boards here in Southwest Florida to preserve the water that gives life to our region.

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