South Central Texas and parts of the Hill Country are home to one of the most striking raptors in the country – the northern crested caracara falcon (caracara cheriway). This beautiful bird is spotted frequently in rural areas around San Antonio, where it is often overlooked as a buzzard, because it is similar in flight and size, and often mixes in amidst vultures at a carcass.
Up close, though, they are beautiful birds, with a large orange beak, dark brown or black wing and back feathers, a white head and face, and a dark “beret” or crest on their heads. The underside of the dark tail is white, and their are brown flecks across its creamy chest. It can be differentiated from buzzards in flight by a sharp white stripe near the end of its dark wings.
Colloquially, many South Texas residents call the bird a “Mexican Eagle,” although the true bird depicted on official Mexican currency and the flag is a golden eagle.
Like vultures, the caracara eats mainly carrion, although it also eats insects and hunts for small animals.