Crested Caracara – Accepted

1. 13 Sep–16 Oct 1987


vic. Mono Lake MNO




2. 28–30 Apr 1989


Smith R. bottoms DN




3. 14 Dec 1993


vic. Westmorland IMP




4. 09 Feb 1995


Chula Vista SD




5. 20 Oct 2001


Long Beach LA




6. 30 Apr 2002


Goleta SBA




and 14–23 Jul 2002


Vandenberg AFB SBA




and 08 Aug 2002


vic. Point Mugu VEN




and 09 Dec 2002–05 Jan 2003


Saticoy VEN



Fig. 211, ph.

7. 04 Jul 2002


vic. Lakeview RIV




8. 11–13 Aug 2002


vic. Marina MTY



Figs. 102, 210, ph., video, NAB 57:113, Roberson (2002), San Miguel & McGrath (2005)

and 21–27 Sep 2002


vic. Davenport SCZ





Crested Caracara – Not accepted, identification not established

09 Jan 1994


vic. Coachella RIV




20 Jun 1995


Oriflamme Mtn. SD




15 Jun 2000


Antelope Valley SIE




09 Oct 2001


Santa Barbara SBA




07 Dec 2002


Brawley IMP





Crested Caracara – Not accepted, natural occurrence questionable (identification established)

? Feb 1916


Monterey MTY



record not accepted again on re-review

01 Jan 1967


vic. Oceano SLO



photo in 4 Jan 1967 edition of San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune; record not accepted again on re-review

07–10 Aug 1972


Alameda ALA



record not accepted again on re-review

21 Oct 1988–26 Mar 1989


Shasta Valley SIS



ph., record in re-review


Crested Caracara – Not submitted

between 18 Oct and 14 Nov 1837


Monterey MTY



Grinnell & Miller (1944)

winter 1853


vic. Fort Yuma IMP



Grinnell & Miller (1944)

24 Feb 1990


Presidio SF



AB 44:323



Orinda CC



Small (1994)



Montaña de Oro State Park SLO



Small (1994), cf. 2004-032 under “Not accepted, natural occurrence questionable”



Laguna Beach ORA



Small (1994)

31 Jan 1997


vic. Brawley IMP



FN 51:801

16 Sep 2002


vic. Santa Cruz SCZ



NAB 57:113

28 Sep 2002


Pescadero SM



NAB 57:113

21 Oct–06 Nov 2002


vic. Half Moon Bay SM


NAB 57:113








Figure 102. Among record numbers of vagrant Crested Caracaras encountered in 2001 and especially 2002 across the United States and into Canada, how many were naturally occurring vagrants? The CBRC endorsed records of four birds, including this second-fall individual photographed on 11 August 2002 near Marina, Monterey County (2002-154; Scott Hein). A color image of the same individual in flight is provided on page 235.



Figure 210. The sequence of flight-feather molt in the Falconidae is unique, proceeding distally and proximally from both the fifth primary and the fifth secondary. This second-fall Crested Caracara, showing obvious contrast between two generations of feathers, was photographed on 11 August 2002 near Marina in Monterey County (2002-154; Scott Hein). The outer primaries are juvenal feathers that are one year old; their broken and frayed condition is consistent with expectations for normal wear.



Figure 211. This handsome Crested Caracara, photographed on 19 December 2002 at Saticoy, Ventura County, showed the barred breast and unmarked wing coverts of an adult (2002-209; Larry Sansone).






Crested Caracara

CRESTED CARACARA Caracara cheriway (Miller, 1777)

Accepted: 8 (45%)

Treated in Appendix H: yes

Not accepted: 10

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 10

Large color images: see Figures

This distinctive raptor ranges from Baja California Sur (rarely farther north), southern Arizona, Texas, southwestern Louisiana, and Florida south locally through Middle America, the Caribbean, and South America to central Peru and northern Brazil. Individuals generally regarded as naturally occurring vagrants have been recorded north to central New Mexico, southern Colorado, north-central Oklahoma (Oklahoma Bird Records Committee 2006), and southern Alabama. The acceptability of other reports, from as far north as Ontario (Godfrey 1986) and British Columbia (Campbell et al. 2001), is viewed differently by records committees and birders from area to area. Three records each from Washington (Ocean Shores 13 August 1983, Neah Bay 4 January–1 February 1998, Grays Harbor 28–29 May 2006) and Oregon (east of Gold Beach 10 February–21 April 1990, near Langlois 25–29 April 2005, and near Corvallis 7 March–14 April 2006) have been accepted by those states’ records committees, and a 28 March 2006 photographic record from southeastern Oregon is undergoing review.

Rosenberg et al. (1991) considered the Crested Caracara to be formerly resident just across the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona, with the last bird recorded on 15 January 1905. Although unaware of acceptable records for California, they considered the species likely to have occurred in the state before 1900. They also listed three records from the Arizona side of the river between 1964 and 1980. Grinnell (1928) reviewed historical records from Baja California, including the 15 March 1928 occurrence of three birds within a mile of the Imperial County border. A review by Patten et al. (2001) included two additional specimen records from the Mexicali Valley: 7 December 1896 (SDNHM 349) and 21 December 1922 (SDNHM 10492). Grinnell and Miller (1944) placed this species on their Supplementary List, stating that it “Occurs with very little doubt from time to time as a vagrant from southward.” They listed two sight records from Monterey County, one each in 1837 and 1916, and another from near Fort Yuma, Imperial County, in 1853. Had any of these records been supported by a specimen, the species probably would have been included on their list of native birds of California. The 1916 Monterey County bird, reportedly a female, but presumably a bird in predefinitive plumage, appeared on the heels of “one of the most severe storms in the history of the state, with southerly and southeasterly gales prevailing for several days” and remained to be studied for “two weeks or so” before it moved on (Heath 1919).

The first Crested Caracara to be accepted as a naturally occurring vagrant in California was a bird widely seen and photographed at Mono Lake, Mono County, during a stay that lasted from 13 September to 16 October 1987. This record and three others from disparate parts of California during the 1980s and 1990s were not accepted by the CBRC until 2007, by which time numerous extralimital Crested Caracaras had been found across the state and elsewhere in North America during the 2000s. Addressing this large-scale phenomenon, Brinkley and Lehman (2003) noted, “None were banded; none were especially confiding; and most were juveniles or subadults, perhaps the age classes most likely to make exploratory flights to the north.” See also the summary by Brinkley (2006:333–334). By 2007 most CBRC members were convinced that this species probably strays northward more frequently than was previously believed. Appendix H lists many more records of this species that the Committee has accepted from the years 2004–2006 (the number of individuals involved has not yet been determined) and evaluates incipient patterns of occurrence in the state.

Some California records of the Crested Caracara involve known escapees, a fact that complicates the task of assessing records of a species such as this, which does not regularly undertake long-distance migrations. Recent reports of escapees come from as far away as England (e.g., BW 16:19). Captive Crested Caracaras are held at the Mexicali Zoo in northeastern Baja California (e.g., Hamilton 2001), and the species is also known to have been kept at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, at the Los Angeles Zoo, and at the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert, California. A 15 March 2005 query of the International Species Information System yielded listings of 19 captive Crested Caracaras at zoos and other participating institutions in North America, including the Palm Desert bird and another in Arizona.


[EURASIAN KESTREL Falco tinnunculus Linnaeus, 1758 – see hypothetical section]