Despite neither appearing nor behaving precisely like a falcon, the crested caracara is considered a member of the falcon family. Resident in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, its range extends southward through Mexico into tropical areas of Central and South America. Its name, Caracara, may be an anglicization of the Guarani Indian traro-traro: an imitation of the unusual rattling sound the bird makes when agitated.
Often referred to as a Mexican eagle, the caracara is thought to be the bird originally depicted on the national emblem and flag of Mexico before being replaced by the golden eagle.
While caracaras will engage in certain distinctly non-falcon-like behaviors — the birds often walk through fields, and can be found sitting in the middle of roads — they soar with remarkable grace, and take live prey as well as dining on carrion.
Especially when on the wing, they rival even the peregrine or prairie falcon’s ability to evoke the title poem from Léonie Adams’s collection, High Falcon and Other Poems:
Send forth the high falcon flying after the mind
Till it come toppling down from its cold cloud:
The beak of the falcon to pierce it till it fall
Where the simple heart is bowed.
O, in wild innocence it rides
The rare ungovernable element,
But once it sways to terror and descent,
The marches of the wind are its abyss,
No wind staying it upward of the breast—
Let mind be proud for this,
And ignorant from what fabulous cause it dropt,
Or with how learnèd a gesture the unschooled heart
Shall lull both terror and innocence to rest.
“Send Forth the High Falcon” ~ Léonie Adams
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