The Great Crested Caracara Chase of 2023

If you live in central Florida or southern Texas, you may have seen a Crested Caracara picking at road kill along rural stretches of highway.  This odd looking long legged scavenger is easily recognized with its large reddish-orange bill and black cap.   Competing with vultures for carrion . . . the Crested Caracara can be seen flying along roads in the early morning searching for food before the vultures leave their roosting trees.

On May 23 of this year, a report came in of a Crested Caracara flying down the street in Cape Elizabeth, Maine . . . thousands of miles out of its range.   This was 10 minutes from our Cape Elizabeth condo . . . but the bird was gone by the time I got there.

A week later the bird was seen in Fryeburg in the western part of the state . . . Ingrid and I didn’t find it during our ensuing visit.

The Caracara continued to criss-cross the state . . . and I continued to chase it and miss it in Round Pond (on the coast) and Swansville (2 hours north).

This morning I got a text message from a friend who had seen the bird in Union (45 minutes north) where it was feeding on a deer carcass with a flock of Turkey Vultures.   I found the dead deer (charming smell) and lots of  Vultures but not my rambling nemesis.

I arrived back home, took a shower and packed for a trip to Boston when the Caracara was reported in the center of Union . . . chowing down on a dead raccoon.   Back into the car I went, with five minute updates coming in from birding friends on the status of the bird.

Upon arriving once again in Union, I found a pull off, flipped off the ignition and walked up the hill to where two birders were watching this terribly lost bird sitting in a tree.  I managed to take a half dozen photos before he flew again . . . probably toward Bar Harbor or Kittery.

On the plus side, I had finally gotten the wayward Crested Caracara.  After searching for him in Cumberland County, Oxford County, Lincoln and Waldo Counties . . . he finally stopped in Knox County long enough for a photo.

The Great Crested Caracara Chase of 2023 is finally over.


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