Chimango caracara (Milvago chimango)

Also known as: Chimango
GenusMilvago (1)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

Recognisable by its relatively plain appearance, the chimango caracara is a common raptor in southern South America (3) (4). Although the all brown plumage lacks an obvious pattern (except for pale patches on the wings and rump), the weak bill, flattish head, and frowning brow are somewhat distinctive. The wings and tail of this lightly built raptor are fairly long, while the greyish-white legs are quite short. The sexes are similar in appearance, but on average the female is slightly larger and heavier than the male. Juveniles are also broadly similar to the adults, but have a more rufous tinge, with some whitish streaks or spots (3).

The chimango caracara occurs throughout much of southern South America, with a range that includes large parts of Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, east and southeast Bolivia and Paraguay, the Falklands Islands, and extreme southeast Brazil (3) (4) (5).

Found in both forested and open habitats throughout its range, and is common around human settlements (4).

Despite being a common diurnal raptor, there is an overall paucity of information on the chimango caracara. It is a generalist predator, with a varied diet that includes carrion, human refuse, and live prey such as insects, worms, other invertebrates, small mammals and nestling birds (4) (6). As a relatively weak flier, it hunts mostly from the ground, running and jumping in pursuit of prey (6).

The nests are made at different heights in a variety of shrubs and trees, with egg-laying occurring from September to December but being most profuse in October. Two to three eggs are incubated for around four to five weeks before hatching, and the young remain in the nest for around six weeks (4). Although most chimango caracara populations are sedentary, large nesting colonies appear to move about in response to food and habitat changes. Furthermore, southern populations shrink in size over the austral winter, indicating migratory movements northwards (3).

In the addition to the absence of any known major threats to the chimango caracara (5), this open habitat species is actually thought to benefit from continued forest clearance in parts of its range (4).

The chimango caracara is listed on Appendix II of CITES, which prohibits trade in this species without a permit (2). Furthermore, given its relatively large range, this species is likely to occur in numerous protected areas (7).

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  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2009)
  2. CITES (February, 2009)
  3. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.
  4. Morrison, J.L. and Phillips, L.M. (2000) Nesting habitat and success of the Chimango Caracara in Chile. Wilson Bulletin, 112: 225 - 232.
  5. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
  6. Yáñez, J.L., Núñez, H. and Jaksic, F.M. (1982) Food habits and weight of Chimango Caracaras in Central Chile. Auk, 99: 170 - 171.
  7. World Database on Protected Areas (May, 2009)