The Rio Grande Valley is world renowned for its birds and home to a variety of raptors or birds of prey. Two of the most sought after by birding enthusiasts are the Harris’s hawk and the Caracara. Richard Moore shows us they can be very competitive.
Perched majestically, the Caracara surveys its surroundings for any sign of prey. Although a member of the falcon family, this South Texas raptor will readily dine on carrion and is also very much at home on the ground, where it will use its long legs and powerful talons to catch lizards and snakes.
Known as the Mexican eagle by some, the Caracara is thought to be the bird depicted on the original national emblem and flag of Mexico. The modern Mexican flag shows the Golden eagle.
In the western part of the Rio Grande Valley, the Caracara is often referred to as totache, which apparently derives from an old Indian term.
However, something has startled this Caracara, and it abruptly takes flight.
Arriving on the scene are three Harris’s hawks, and while the totache may be larger, the Harris’s hawks make up for any size disadvantage with group force.
Harris’s hawks are unusually social as most birds of prey are primarily solitary. Harris’s hawks often hunt cooperatively, working together to flush and pounce on prey.
The female is slightly larger than the male, but both plumages are alike with dark chocolate brown feathering and distinctive bright chestnut thighs and shoulder patches.
This handsome raptor was named by the famous ornithologist John James Audubon for his friend Edward Harris. This bird of prey has also been called the bay-winged and dusky hawk.
Regardless of nomenclature, the Caracara and Harris’s hawk are two of the Valley’s signature raptors and worthy of our protection and admiration.