Spirited bird

When Cabo the Crested Caracara is tethered to her perch in the weathering yard at Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, she needs two clips because she has figured out how to free herself from just one attachment.

She is spirited and beautiful and has never outgrown her adolescent sass that I have been told is common among Crested Caracaras, a native Florida bird. She is happiest, it seems, when she travels to events as an educational ambassador for the wildlife center and there are lots of people, noise, and activities around her. She was completely unfazed by the sound of props and jets at the Stuart Airshow in early November, even the F-22 Raptor and the F-16 Falcon. “What’s that bird?” was a common question.

The Crested Caracara looks like a hawk with its sharp beak and talons, behaves like a vulture, and is technically a large tropical black-and-white falcon. It is instantly recognizable standing tall on long yellow-orange legs with a sharp black cap set against a white neck and yellow-orange face. The Crested Caracara is a bird of open country and reaches only a few states in the southern U.S. It flies low on flat wings, and routinely walks on the ground.

She is one of the educational birds (hawks and owls) I have learned to move from the mews to the weathering yard on the days when I volunteer at TCWC. I travel 25 minutes west to Palm City a couple of mornings a week and help with some of the simplest animal care jobs like cleaning enclosures and water dishes, and sometimes feeding, so that the certified wildlife rehabbers can do the more important work. I am also planning to volunteer more at educational events, as my knowledge grows.

Here I am with Maxine the Red-shouldered Hawk at the airshow.

I am definitely enjoying being around the birds and other critters. There are temporary patients being rehabbed and permanent residents who cannot be returned to the wild, often due to wing or eye injuries. But I have neglected my blog a bit since I’ve been getting my bird fun elsewhere!

New Year resolution, one month early: back to bird blogging!

First Curacao birds

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Crested Caracara on a cactus.

A few birds from our first day in Curacao, with more later.

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Bananaquit on a bookshelf in the outdoor cooking and dining area at our lodgings. The Dutch name for them translates as “sugar thief” – they will take the sugar right out of your sugar bowl.

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Flamingos at the salt pond in Sint Willebrordus. I have more photos of these beautifully colored birds to share tomorrow.

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A boldly colored Troupial after sunrise. They are New World orioles in the blackbird family.

Airshow raptors

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Red-tailed Hawk at the Stuart Airshow yesterday. Treasure Coast Wildlife Center brought some raptors to visit with us fans of flight.

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Red-tails are a favorite bird of mine.

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Red-tails engaging in an inflight battle over prey, John James Audubon.

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Crested Caracara. I have yet to see one of these in the wild, but Florida is the place to do it.

All About Birds…

A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures.

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Audubon Field Guide…

Related to the typical falcons, but very different in shape and habits. The Crested Caracara is a strikingly patterned, broad-winged opportunist that often feeds on carrion. Aggressive, it may chase vultures away from road kills. Widespread in the American tropics, it enters our area only near the Mexican border and in Florida. “Caracara” comes from a South American Indian name, based on the bird’s call.

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Peregrine falcon.

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The falcon with Gracie the bald eagle beyond.

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Red-shouldered Hawk.

I saw one of these out at Lakeside Ranch WTA a couple of weekends ago.

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A beauty.

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Above us at Witham Field, birds of a feather were flocking together.

Raptors at TCWC

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Members of Audubon of Martin County visited the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to learn about raptors yesterday, out in the wilds of Palm City, Florida.

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Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

Injured birds and other animals are rehabilitated and released, when possible.

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Crested Caracara is a “falconized vulture,” we learned, and a clever bird.

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Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

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Gracie the Bald Eagle has lived at the center for many years. She is missing part of a wing and will never fly. She fell or was pushed from her nest when she was barely a fledgling and a local rancher found her.

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This falcon is probably a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Tundra Falcon and was probably being used for unofficial falconry when rescued from someone’s garage, according to center director Tim Brown.

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This bird does not seem to mind being handled and seems tuned in to Tim.

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Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

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Beautiful feathers.

The visit was a good chance to get close to some amazing birds, though a little sad too to see them tethered or caged instead of flying free and healthy.

“Most of the birds are here because they got a little too close to humans,” said Tim, “so we think it’s right for humans to try to help them.”

A rapture of raptors

I didn’t expect to go birdwatching at the ArtsFest in downtown Stuart yesterday, but Treasure Coast Wildlife Center brought some rescued raptors to a pavilion in Memorial Park. And what birds to watch they were!

Here are some closeup “portraits” with my Canon SX60.

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Barn Owl is (charmingly) nocturnal.

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Great Horned Owl wins the staring contest.

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This Peregrine Falcon is retired from falconry, I learned.

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Red-shouldered Hawk is a forest hunter. They look a lot like Broad-winged Hawks and the Florida native version is lighter in color. I wonder if I am confusing my local hawks, since Broad-winged are rarer around here.

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Crested Caracara is wicked cool. A new bird for me.

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Red-tailed Hawk is fiercely beautiful.