Staff at Paradise Park, in Hayle, Cornwall, UK, are thrilled that two Striated Caracara chicks have hatched and are doing well.
Director Alison Hales commented, “The adults have been living with us at the Park for several years, but these two chicks are the first they have produced. They are interesting birds; very smart and inquisitive, which helps them to survive in difficult habitats when they need to find a wide range of foods.”
“The new parents have been quite secretive, so when [Paradise Park staff] got a glimpse of the chicks raising their heads for food, it was very exciting. They are growing fast now and will soon leave their nest. The plan for them is to join unrelated mates in other bird collections in the UK or Europe,” Hales continued.
The Striated Caracara, (Phalcoboenus australis) is a bird of prey of the family Falconidae. It is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion, offal, and it digs up small invertebrates using its claws (unusual behavior for a Falcon). It also preys on injured creatures such as young seabirds. And, because it also attacks weak lambs, sheep farmers have ruthlessly persecuted the species.
The adults' plumage is almost black in color, while the legs are orange and the neck is flecked with grey. First year juveniles have an orange or light red down, which they lose after their first molt. Full adult plumage is acquired only in the fifth year.
Their nest is built on the ground or on a cliff ledge, where the female will lay up to four eggs. Once the chicks have fledged, they gather into flocks and roam through their native islands.
The Striated Caracara was once considered common in the Falkland Islands, where it is known as the ‘Johnny Rook’. Charles Darwin visited East Falkland, in 1833, and wrote that it was 'exceedingly numerous'. Recent surveys suggest there are currently 500-650 pairs remaining on the Falklands, mainly living on islands uninhabited by people. This species is currently classified as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.