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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

During his visit to the Falklands, Charles Darwin was struck by the tameness, inquisitive behaviour and opportunistic feeding habits of the striated caracara (6). Indeed, individuals of this species, particularly juveniles, show little fear of humans and can be easily caught with a hand net. The striated caracara's curiosity is more than a just behavioural quirk, however, and probably helps it to develop novel ways of finding food. For example, this species will dig prions (small seabirds) from out of the burrows where they reside during the day, and will also hunt them on the wing at night. In addition to small seabirds, the striated caracara also feeds upon the eggs and chicks of larger seabirds such as penguins and albatrosses, and on the carcasses of furseals and penguins (4). Where livestock farming occurs, this species has been brought into conflict with humans as it will attack weak or stranded sheep (5) (7). The striated caracara's breeding season occurs during the austral summer, from December to late February (4), with the female laying a clutch of up to four eggs in a nest constructed from twigs and vegetation, lined with grass and wool (7). After fledging the young birds congregate in large flocks (4).
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Description

The striated caracara is a distinctive and charismatic raptor, which has the southernmost overall breeding distribution of any bird of prey in the world (4). The plumage is mostly deep brown to blackish-brown, with fine white streaking beginning at nape of the neck, and becoming broader and more conspicuous on the upper back and breast. The underwing is reddish brown with white tips on the primary feathers, while the tail ends in a whitish band. A bare yellow patch of skin around the eyes and base of the beak provides a striking contrast with this species' dark plumage and bluish bill. The immature striated caracara is browner than the adult and lacks the distinctive streaking and tail band, but possesses a tawny patch on the upper back (2).
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Distribution

Range

The striated caracara is found on isolated shores and islets off extreme south Argentina and Chile, including the south and east coasts of Isla Grande on Tierra del Fuego, Isla de los Estados, Navarino, Cape Horn, and the Falkland Islands (5).
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Range Description

Phalcoboenus australis is restricted to isolated shores, rookeries and islets off extreme south Argentina and Chile, including the south and east coasts of Isla Grande on Tierra del Fuego, Isla de los Estados, Navarino and Cape Horn, and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (Bierregaard 1994, Strange 1996). It is rare in much of its range (Bierregaard 1994), but locally numerous on some of the smaller islands in the west Falklands (Strange 1996, Woods and Woods 1997). In 1983-1992, the population on the Falklands was estimated at 500-900 breeding pairs, with more recent surveys suggesting 500-650 pairs (R. Woods in litt. 1998). A 2006 survey found that the breeding population had not increased despite the species being protected by law since 1999 but was stable at around 500 pairs (R. Woods 2006).

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Range

Tierra del Fuego, Staten I., Navarino I. and Falkland Islands.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in open lowlands, from the tidal zone perhaps to low coastal mountains, and most typically along rocky coasts (Bierregaard 1994), feeding on dead adults and chicks of colonial seabirds, and insects and grubs along the tidal zone (Bierregaard 1994). It will attack weak or stranded sheep and, in groups, wild geese (Canevari et al. 1991).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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The striated caracara typically inhabits open lowland areas, mainly along rocky coastlines, but also potentially occurs at higher elevations on low coastal mountains (5). This species is only found on islands where populations of seals or seabirds are present (4).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Woods, R.W.

Justification
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it has a moderately small population.

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. This equates to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
It was heavily persecuted in the past on the Falklands (Bierregaard 1994), and is much reduced in numbers (Woods 1988). The immature population is probably only capable of replacing losses in the breeding population (Strange 1996), but none of the populations seem to be facing any major threats.

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As a result of its classification as a pest of sheep farming, in 1908 the striated caracara became subject to an intensive programme of extermination on the Falkland Islands. Fortunately, in the 1920s, objections by the Government Naturalist James E. Hamilton led to the programme's cessation, but not before the population of this species had been severely reduced (8). Despite a gradual recovery, the restricted range of this species has meant that its population remains relatively small (4) (5). Nevertheless, at present the striated caracara is not considered to be facing any significant threats (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is officially protected by Falklands Islands (Malvinas) law.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor breeding population on at least one island (including ringing to monitor juvenile mortality rate) (R. Woods 2006). Study ecology, dispersal, population dynamics and survival (R. Woods 2006). Assess incidence of damage to livestock and evaluate impact of species on sheep farming, then begin dialogue with farmers (R. Woods 2006).

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Conservation

The striated caracara is officially protected by Falkland Islands law, making it illegal to kill this species without written permission from the Falkland Islands government (8). A notable success story for this species has occurred on New Island, West Falklands. Despite having been extirpated from the island in the 1960s, the management of the island as a private Nature Reserve since 1972, has allowed the striated caracara to re-colonise the island, and now represents the largest single-island breeding population in this species range (4).
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Wikipedia

Striated Caracara

The Striated Caracara, (Phalcoboenus australis) is a bird of prey of the Falconidae family. In the Falkland Islands it is known as the Johnny Rook.

Description[edit]

The adults' plumage is almost black in colour, while the legs and lores are orange and the neck is flecked with grey. The first year juveniles have an orange or light red down, which they lose after their first molt. Full adult plumage is acquired only in the fifth year.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It breeds in several islands in Tierra del Fuego, but is more abundant in the Falklands. Though it was once considered common in the Falklands archipelago, it now only nests in the outlying islands where it breeds around penguin and albatross colonies.

Behaviour[edit]

Feeding[edit]

The Striated Caracara is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion, mainly dead seabirds and dead sheep, offal and food scraps. It occasionally takes insects and earthworms that it digs up with its claws. However it will also prey on weak or injured creatures, such as young seabirds. Its habit of attacking newborn lambs and weakened sheep has led it to be ruthlessly persecuted by sheep farmers.

Often it is known to steal red objects such as clothing or handkerchiefs, possibly because red is the colour of meat. Like all falconiformes it has excellent colour vision which easily surpasses that of any known mammal.[2] Often it will also raid dustbins and move rocks to get food from underneath, thus proving themselves to be one of the most intelligent of the birds of prey.

Breeding[edit]

The nest is built on the ground or on a cliff ledge, where the female will lay up to 4 eggs. Their hatching is timed to coincide with the nesting season of seabirds, providing a constant food supply for the chicks. Once these have fledged, they gather into flocks and roam through the islands, often close to human settlements.

Status and conservation[edit]

The population in the Falklands is estimated at 500 breeding pairs. Juveniles and indeed, adults, are almost entirely fearless of humans and treat their approach with indifference. Over time, conflict with the sheep farmers has led to a great reduction in their numbers. This is now being corrected by the Falkland Islanders.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Phalcoboenus australis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Understanding the Bird of Prey by Dr. Nick Fox
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