Crested Caracara’s are not in short supply on Curaçao. These birds of prey, which are carrion eaters but can be effective hunters if they want to be, are profiting from the many birds, lizards, iguanas and pets killed in traffic accidents as well as from the many dead dogs, cats, goats and even donkeys and horses people seem to dump in more and more nature areas. However disgusting, this practice has as a consequence that the birds can be observed from a relative close proximity which gives some interesting insights in the pecking order and their social behaviour as they tend to group together in groups up to 25 individuals.
A first sighting for us
As opposed to the aforementioned Crested Caracara, the much smaller Yellow-headed Caracara is not an everyday sight on Curaçao. The last record of this species on our island is from the year 1952 (On Bonaire it was spotted for the last time in December 1990)
On Aruba however, bird watchers not only spotted a couple of these fantastic birds in 2017, the birds actually started breeding on our sister island, producing a nest of 3 chicks. You can imagine that the birders on Curaçao were somewhat jealous of this development and on the lookout to be able to spot the birds again on Curacao. And that happened in the early afternoon of Wednesday September 25 2019 in the area of Koredor.
Our colleague Rob Wellens (yes he is one good bird finder), send me another message to notify he had spotted an immature Yellow-headed Caracara at the entrance of Koredor on a chance encounter as he was actually looking for tern species. I got to the spot as soon as I could, and there it was in all its Yellow-headed Caracara glory.
My first thought was how small the animal was, as it felt to me as if it wasn’t any larger than our largest pigeon species, the Scaly-naped pigeon. Looking up its size later in the books, the feeling I had appeared to be right as the Scaly-naped pigeons measure about 41 centimetres as do juvenile Yellow-headed Caracaras more or less.
Just like the Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed caracaras are also scavengers but will hunt for insects and other small animals if needed. They are considered omnivorous and will apparently also eat fruit. The birds prefer areas such as swamps, wooded areas and also savannas.
I have to say, the birding season is just fantastic up till know and I can’t wait what else it will bring!