Historically, Crested Caracaras have been relegated to southern portions of the state, and as such they were thought to be rare visitors to north central Texas. But over the last several years there seems to have been an increase in the number of sightings in and around the metroplex.
This bird has been on my wish list for a long time. The caracara is one of those birds that I always keep and eye out for whenever I am outdoors in the metroplex. For years the sight of one has eluded me.
All of that changed a couple of weeks ago, but in a slightly unsatisfactory way. Here’s how it happened:
We were traveling north on US-175 and pulled off highway to make a u-turn just south of the East Fork of the Trinity River. While we were going under the highway, we spotted an unusual looking larger bird flying over it! We recognized right away that we were seeing something new, but the fast moving bird did not give us a chance for a good look. We managed just a couple poor quality, long distance shots before the bird was gone from view. We crossed our fingers and hoped the pictures would at least suffice for identification purposes.
They did, but just barely. Reviewing the pictures on the computer at home we found that the dark bird we photographed sported the white crown, tail, and wingtips characteristic of a caracara. So, I had finally observed a Crested Caracara in the metroplex, but only the weakest sense of the word.
Fortunately, this past weekend I had a second chance. While walking through a wetland area we came across, and inadvertently flushed, a congregation of Turkey Vultures. In their midst was a dark brown Crested Caracara. The startled birds took flight but were reluctant to leave the immediate area, perhaps because they had been feeding on an unseen carcass. None of the scavengers displayed more resilience than the caracara, though. This bird circled overhead at low altitude giving us wonderful opportunities for pictures as he passed by.
And soon he was back on the ground again, nearby and impatiently waiting for us to move on so he could get back to business. We snapped a few more photographs and then yielded the ground to the caracara.
When I reviewed my pictures of this Crested Caracara at home it became apparent that this bird may be having some foot or leg trouble. As you can see in the photographs below, this bird’s left leg is carried at a constant dangle. On a few of the tightly cropped pictures there appears to be an injury or deformity to the left foot. On a positive note, we did not notice the caracara having any particular difficulty either in the air or on the ground. The leg did not seem to be a severe handicap.
Within just a few minutes of the first caracara sighting, another large white-crowned bird caught my attention. This big black bird was skimming a treeline and coming our direction, so I started shooting pictures.
Through the camera lens I could see that this too was a Crested Caracara. This one was darker than the first and did not have the telltale foot dangle. I had waited years to see a wild caracara in North Texas, and when it finally happens, I get two in one day! Not bad.