Red-throated Caracara Ibycter americanus

  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Falconidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Courtney Davis and Sean McCann



Slow, labored flight that becomes frantic and erratic when on the edge of their territory. They hunt in the canopy and primarily forage at the nests of paper wasps, to which the Red-throated Caracara seems immune to the adult's stings. In fact, it would appear that the adult wasps will leave the nest and will not attack the caracara once it has taken the nest as prey (Skutch 1959). The wasps will remain at least 1 m from the foraging caracara but will return to the nest once the bird has left. Occasionally, the nest will be rebuilt but more often than not it is abandoned. Other birds seen foraging the remnants of a wasp nest after the caracara have been attacked by the adult wasps, so the caracara must be successfully repelling these wasps to some degree (Thiollay 1991).

Despite being a social species, individuals tend to hunt alone. A foraging group moved every 11-17 minutes, on average, with the highest frequency before 0900 h and with the longest intervals during 1200 and 1500 h. Individuals remain silent during the hunt but gave a soft call when moving from perch to perch. When group members are hunting in the understory, one or two indivudals will remain in the upper canopy to guard from predators (Thiollay 1991).

Food sharing occurs quite frequently in this species but dominance or aggressive behaviors have not been recorded (Thiollay 1991).


This species is a cooperative breeder with permanent groups that range from 4-8 individuals per group (Thiollay and Bednarz 2007). However, this species is also extremely territorial. The limits of territories are recognized by adjacent groups and rarely does an encounter lead to physical confrontation. When a foraging group approaches a boundary and attracts a neighboring group, a vocal territorial display ensues that can last anywhere between 10-60 minutes. This display usually ends quite abruptly and both groups will retreat to the center of their home territory. Boundaries are well known by all members of the group and are rarely, if ever, crossed. Flight and behavior becomes erractic at these boundaries (Thiollay 1991).

Red-throated Caracara often occurs at low densities. At one site in French Guiana, the density was estimated as 0.50/100 ha (Thiollay 1994).

Sexual Behavior

There is very little known about the courtship behaviors of Red-throated Caracara.

Social and interspecific behavior

Red-throated Caracara usually occurs in small groups.

In the presence of predatory birds, the members of a group gather around with frequent, loud alarm calling, until the predator moves on.  They then follow in close proximity until the predator has moved quite a distance from their current location and general home range (Thiollay 1991).

Allofeeding and food sharing are common. Feeding individuals share with 1-3 others and if the food source is large enough, will also seek out individuals that are inexperienced or that have not yet secured food (Thiollay 1991).

Unrelated species sometimes follow a group of caracaras and forage in close proximity to them. These unrelated species usually are medium to large frugivores that forage in the canopy and that live either in pairs or in small groups, such as Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), White-throated Toucan (Ramphastos tucanus tucanus), Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus), Green Oropendola (Psarocolius viridis), and Red-fan Parrot (Deroptyus acciptrinus) (Thiollay 1991). These species forage independently of one another and of the caracaras but will move on with the caracara flock after feeding.

Recommended Citation

Davis, C. and S. McCann (2014). Red-throated Caracara (Ibycter americanus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.