This week we take a look at our only Bird of Prey in the park
With only 500 breeding pairs in the wild, the Striated Caracara is one of our rarest inhabitants and they are listed as near threatened. In the past they were heavily persecuted by farmers who believed them responsible for the loss of livestock but they are now protected by law.
Caracaras are a member of the Falcon family which also includes UK natives such as the Kestrel & Hobby. There are 10 Caracara species all of which are South or Central American, although they occassionallly reach the US. Striated Caracaras are predominantly found on the Falklands with a small population on Tierra del Fuego.
Males and females are alike in appearance with the females slightly larger. They have longer legs than many birds of prey as they spend a lot of time on the ground, using their long legs to reach into nooks and crannies. Long talons are typical of predatory birds but are also used for digging.
Diet wise Caracaras are mainly opportunistic scavengers, feeding on the carcasses of dead seabirds and livestock. They will also take human rubbish. They will predate on young seabirds, including penguins, and on the sick and weak. They are highly intelligent and will problem solve to reach food. They are often found foraging in groups of up to 50 birds.
Pairs are territorial and both adults will defend their patch. Both birds display prior to nesting. Nests are often found on ledges but also on the ground. Breeding is timed to coincide with that of the local seabirds such as penguins and albatross. Nests are built with twigs & grass and sometimes wool. Between 1 and 4 eggs are laid with incubation around 32 days
Chicks are attended by both parents and fledge after 3 months. They then form large juvenile groups.
We currently hold 2 pairs of Striated Caracara. Our older pair, housed next to the Caribbean Flamingos, have been with us for many years and may be the original descendants of many of the Caracaras in the UK today. They have been regular breeders in the past but have not breed for 5 years now. However, this year they have been displaying and nest building.
Our younger pair are in the main aviary and are also showing potential for breeding for the first time. The hen bird is regularly seen in the nest and the male has been taking food to her.
Diet wise we give them a wide range of food, including chicks, mice, rats, herring, roach, pigeon, rabbit and even venison
We will keep you updated on any breeding news
Other news this week
The Roul Roul Partridge in the old Toucan/Temperate House have hatched 4 out of 5 eggs, with the chicks being well attended by both parents.
The Northern Helmeted Curassow chick had a bad hatch and unfortunately did not survive as it had not fully absorbed its yolk sac
The Red Crested Touracos have 2 eggs now. We had originally put a shallow dish under the eggs but mum had rolled them out so they now have a deep food dish as a nest and are sitting much better
King Penguin Junior has just about finished his moult, the last of the Kings to do so
Humboldts Arthur & Molly may be starting their moult
The Bartlett’s Doves break their egg
The male Nicobar Pigeon from Holland moved into the main aviary with no problems with the resident male
The male Orange Headed Ground Thrush was moved into the old Toucan House, with the female being moved into an adjacent aviary
Wildlife wise the only thing of note is that the resident Herons have not been around this week. This is a blessing when it comes to penguin and pelican feeding time and we suspect they may be nesting somewhere in the village.
Thanks as always for the read