Year End Countdown # 12 — Crested Caracara’s Moment Of Triumph
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Today we begin my countdown of my 12 favorite images of 2016. Today’s image is of a juvenile Crested Caracara celebrating a victory. I’ve included this image as much for what the bird is doing as for its appearance.
One day back in January I was in rural country along with a friend, looking for photographs, when we came across a pasture full of dozens of sheep and newborn lambs. There were several Crested Caracaras on the ground, in among the sheep and lambs. They were feeding on the placentas that the mothers had dropped while giving birth. As I watched, two birds — both of them juvenile Caracaras — began squabbling over one of the placentas. The more aggressive of the two quickly drove off its rival. Having achieved that, it did something remarkable: it threw its head back and, with its beak almost vertical, it emitted a series of hoarse cries, loudly celebrating its triumph.
Crested Caracaras are among my personal favorite photography subjects. They are utterly cool looking, in my opinion. They are related to falcons, but their physical appearance and lifestyle is quite different from that of falcons. Caracaras are both predators and scavengers. They are large, aggressive birds, easily the size of ravens, that will eat just about anything that they can find and capture. They often hunt for food on the ground, running efficiently on their long legs. They have a fierce appearance that reminds me of some of the images that I’ve seen of feathered dinosaurs. Bizarrely, their faces change color, depending on their mood. What makes them extra-special for me is that they are extremely elusive and very difficult to photograph. These birds invariably react to my presence by moving away from me. Finding one that is close enough to photograph is a rarity. Catching the bird in the act of demonstrating one of its species’ unique behaviors makes the moment memorable.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 mm f4 DO, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/1250.