Fr: Caracara montagnard
Ang: Mountain Caracara
All: Bergkarakara
Esp: Caracara Andino
Ita: Caracara montano
Nd: Andescaracara
Sd: bergkarakara


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HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

BIRDS OF PERU by Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O’Neill, Theodore A. Parker III – Princeton University Press 2007– ISBN: 978-0-691-13023-1

Birds of Ecuador De Robin Restall, Juan Freile - Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019 – ISBN: 147297249X, 9781472972491 - 576 pages

Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide Par Nick Athanas, Paul J. Greenfield – Editeur: Princeton University Press, 2016 – ISBN: 140088070X, 9781400880706

RAPTORS OF THE WORLD by James Ferguson-Lees et David Christie - Helm Identification Guides – ISBN: 0713680261

Peruvian Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide to the Central Andes - De Barry Walker, Gerard Cheshire, Huw Lloyd – Editeur: Bradt Travel Guides, 2007 – ISBN: 1841621676, 9781841621678 – 143 pages

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Neotropical Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology 

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Mountain Caracara
Phalcoboenus megalopterus

Falconiformes Order – Falconidae Family

The Mountain Caracara is a South American raptor found from S Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to N Argentina and Chile. It usually frequents puna and páramo zones in the high Andes. It is a solitary, shy raptor.
The Mountain Caracara prefers treeless habitats where it perches on high posts to watch a large area. It is usually seen walking on the ground while foraging, and often in small groups, a pair and a juvenile searching for food together.
Unlike other Falconidae species, it builds a stick nest with soft lining inside, placed on cliff or electricity pole.
The Mountain Caracara is described as “common” in suitable habitat and the species is not globally threatened for the moment.    

The black and white feathers of the Mountain Caracara were used to decorate the crown of the Sapa Inca, the Emperor of the Inca Empire and the Neo-Inca State. This species is also related to Viracocha, the god-sun of the Inca culture. It was a sacred bird.

Length: 48-55 cm
Wingspan: 111-124 cm
Weight: Male: 795-800 g

The Mountain Caracara is very similar to the Carunculated Caracara, but it has uniformly black breast instead of streaked black and white.

Carunculated Caracara

On the right

The present species has glossy black upperparts, head, upper breast and flanks. The upperwing is black with the primaries narrowly tipped white. The rounded tail is black with white terminal band. Rump and uppertail-coverts are white.
On the underparts, lower breast, belly, undertail-coverts and underwing-coverts are white. Flight-feathers and tail are black, the latter with white terminal band.

The head is black, with red to reddish-orange bare facial skin.
The bill is bluish-white with whitish tip. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are orange-yellow with pale horn talons.  
Male and female have similar plumage, but the female is slightly larger.

The juvenile is fuscous-brown with whitish tips and spots to flight-feathers. The rump is white with narrow brown bars.
The facial skin is whitish.
The bill is blackish. The eyes are brown. Legs and feet are pale, dull orange-yellow.

The young bird probably needs three years to achieve the full adult plumage, and some brown feathers may be visible in subadult birds.

The Mountain Caracara occurs in the Andes from S Ecuador, through Peru and Bolivia to NW Argentina and C Chile (Colchagua).  

The Mountain Caracara is mainly found between 3,500 and 5,000 metres of elevation in puna zone, although it regularly descends to the coast in S Peru.
It is usually seen foraging in puna grassland, near mountain lakes and marshes, also in heavily grazed areas and on recently ploughed land.
It breeds in rugged areas near cliffs where they can also roost in large flocks. They often gather near cities and along highways where they can find carrion and rubbish.

The Mountain Caracara is usually silent, but it produces some cackle when alarmed. It often feeds in groups, and one bird may call out to attract other members of the group if it needs some help to move a rock. It gives a high pitched “kieeer”. Some rasping “ahk” can be heard occasionally too.  

The Mountain Caracara usually forages and feeds on foot by scratching the soil to disturb invertebrates. It generally feeds on large insects, young rodents and birds. It also takes carrion and rubbish, especially along highways and near cities where these raptors gather in large flocks.

But the Mountain Caracara performs cooperative foraging too. This behaviour occurs between two or more individuals, in order to assist one another to get a food item. It is relatively common to observe 2-3 birds while they turn over small rocks to reach a prey. They work together to move the rock from its place and each bird uses one of its talons. This work may take about 30 minutes.
However, they do not share the prey which is eaten by only one individual, but the food may also be given to a juvenile if present. On the other hand, a large prey caught cooperatively will be shared.

The breeding behaviour of this species is poorly known. Some aerial displays including high circling and mutual soaring are reported. They nest on cliffs and may use human-made supports.

The Mountain Caracara is sedentary, with only some altitudinal dispersion after breeding.

This raptor is a strong flier, even flying after vehicles to get discarded waste.

The breeding season occurs in October/December in the southern part of the range, but this period probably extends until March/April elsewhere.
The Mountain Caracara nests in a small depression in rock, on rocky ridge in cliff, but it also uses concrete electricity towers where it builds a bulkier nest with large sticks and animal wool, usually sheep and llama’s wool. However, some nests are only made with cow dung.
The female lays 2-3 creamy to pinkish-white eggs, heavily spotted and marked with dark reddish.
No more information.

The Mountain Caracara is described as “common” in suitable habitat, but the high-elevation range is probably naturally protected.
The population is suspected to be stable and this species is not globally threatened.
The Mountain Caracara is currently evaluated as Least Concern.