Most birders have heard of a Creasted Caracara. Even non-birders often recognized it from its fame as the national symbol of Mexico, where you can normally find this species. This large charismatic raptor is very closely related to our falcons (in the family: Falconidae) but acts more like a vulture (Cathartidae). So you can imagine my surprise when on Tuesday evening I received a message from Maine birder, Steve Muise, that was titled “MAINE CRESTED CARACARA.” I couldn’t have dialed Steve’s number any faster and soon the word was spread.
A handful of birders were on the scene in Unity, where the bird as originally found, first thing the next morning. Shortly after 6:00am the caracara was relocated but only stayed for about 15 minutes before flying off to the west. One very lucky birder relocated it on the side of the road, ready to devour some fresh painted turtle roadkill. It remained in this area for the next hour and a half before being flushed by the local traffic and has not been relocated since (as of Aug 29th). Here is a checklist with notes from that amazing 1.5 hours: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19587060
This is the first record for the species in Maine and seems incredibly improbable given this species normal range, however the is some precedence of this species making it to the northeast. In fact, Massachusetts has two previous records: 1-9 Jan 1999 in Middleboro and 14 May 2007 in West Tisbury. New Jersey had one in West Windsor on 8-13 Sep 2012. Even further north of us, a Crested Caracara was seen roaming around Nova Scotia for 9 months from the spring of 2013 through the winter of 2014. Though the provenance may never be truly know, it seems perfectly likely that these birds are naturally occurring vagrants.
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.