Southern Caracara Fact File


The southern crested caracara has a black crown on its head with a small crest which gives them their name. The rest of the head is cream which turns in to cream with barring along the chest and back. The lower body is dark brown. The underside of the tail is white.

Southern crested caracaras have a bare, orange face with a pale bluish-grey beak. Their eyes are either dark brown or yellow.

Most of their movement takes place by walking along the ground. To allow them to move swiftly they have long yellow legs which are bare of feathers. These feet feature strong black talons.

The male and female are similar in appearance.

Their body measure between 49 and 59cm (19.5-23in) long with a weight of between 0.85 and 1.5kg (1.75-3.25lbs). They have a wingspan of between 120 and 132cm (47-52in) across. Animals in the south of the range tend to be the larger individuals.


Southern crested caracaras are carnivores. Their diet includes animals which they catch as well as carrion. Animals which they prey on include birds and their eggs, small mammals, insects and fish.

Their day is spent sitting on fences or in trees watching out for live prey to a hunt or a carcass. One way they identify the location of carcasses is to watch for a vulture descending in to it. They may also steal food off of other raptors.

southern caracara

Scientific Name

Caracara plancus

Conservation Status

Least Concern





49-59cm (19.5-23in)


120-132cm (47-52in)


Wild 37 years

Captive 17 years



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South America is the home of the southern caracara. Here they can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. The species is a resident of the Falkland Islands.


Southern caracaras make their home in shrubland, steppe, scrubland, grassland and wetlands. They can also be found in fields which previously were forest.

southern caracara


The breeding season of the southern caracara is variable based on their range. It takes place sometime from August to November though it may continue outside this range. Throughout the breeding season the face can turn bright yellow during displays.

Mates will fly together while males will engage in aerial fights to defend their territories.

A nest is built on top of a tree or on a cliff ledge. This may be lined with animal fur such as that of a coati or tapir.

In to the nest they will deposit between 2 and 3 eggs. These are oval shaped and cream or reddish-orange in color. They may have some spotting on them.

These eggs are incubated for 28 days. At hatching the chicks are covered with pinkish down.

The chicks spend 50-56 days in the nest.


This species is commonly seen on the ground where they undertake much of their foraging.

The southern caracara creates a range of chattering and rattling calls. When producing their territorial call they will throw the head back till it touches their shoulders. A range of clicks and grumbles are produced when at the nest.

Hunting may take place in small groups made up of up to 5 birds.

southern caracara

Predators and Threats

The species is considered common across much of its range. Their population has been able to grow as the amount of roadkill increases which provides additional food.

Some are prosecuted as they will hunt newborn lambs or weak adults. Small numbers may also be collected for the pet trade.

Quick facts

This species is also known as the Brazilian caracara, the Carancho carrion hawk and the common caracara.

Southern caracaras are close relatives of the northern crested caracara (Caracara cheriway) which is found in the northern parts of the Americas.

southern caracara

Photo Credits


By Thomas Fuhrmann - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Middle One

By Charles J. Sharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Middle Two

By GildasioOliveira - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


By Dario Sanches from São Paulo, Brasil - CARCARÁ (Caracará plancus)Uploaded by berichard, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Taylor, B. and Orr, R., 2021. The bird atlas. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley.

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

BirdLife International. 2016. Caracara plancus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22733377A95058702. Downloaded on 28 February 2021. 2021. Southern caracara (Caracara plancus) longevity, ageing, and life history. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 February 2021].

Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Southern Caracara Caracara plancus. Downloaded from on 28 Feb. 2021 2021. Southern Crested Caracara. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 February 2021].

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