Caracara: variable diet

Caracaras are very opportunistic birds, and they show an incredible variation of diet. Some of this variation is specific of each territorial pair. For example, at Sea Lion Island there are some pairs that are good at fishing.

Caracara with fish

Caracaras also eat various kinds of shellfish.

Caracara eating a limpet

Caracara eating a limpet

Caracara eating a mussel

Caracara eating a mussell

An important part of the diet of Sea Lion Island caracaras are the different marine bird species that nest on the island, including gentoo penguins, rockhopper penguins and king cormorants.Some caracaras are very bold: they simply displace the adult from the nest and grab an egg.

Caracara stealing cormorant egg

Caracara stealing cormorant egg

Caracara stealing a king cormorant egg

Although caracaras cannot kill adult penguins that are healthy, they are definitely able to feed on individuals that are sick and or wounded.

Caracaras feeding on gentoo penguin

A pair of caracaras feeding on an adult gentoo penguin

Caracara can also feed on the many different species of small birds that live and breed at Sea Lion Island.

Caracara with tussac bird

Caracara with a tussac bird

An important part of caracaras diet is scavenging on marine mammal carcasses. At Sea Lion Island, orcas sometimes kill adult elephant seals and their carcasses can be found on the beaches. Moreover, sometimes we have cetacean strandings. To feed on carcasses, caracaras compete with giant petrels and turkey vultures, but they are usually dominant over those species, notwithstanding being smaller.

Caracaras feeding on dead elephant seal

Caracaras feeding on a dead elephant seal

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