(Northern) Crested Caracara
- Dennis Braddy's post of 22 August about the common name for the Caracara
in Santa Cruz County was a bit of a surprise. Not Dennis' posting; rather that
the AOU didn't change the name. I have gone back into my records and
added "Northern" to my various Crested Caracara sightings in North and
Central America, and "Southern" to my Crested Caracara sightings in Tierra
del Fuego based on a paper in Wilson Bulletin (111:330-339, 1999) by
He (and Carla Dove) did an extensive study of specimens -- including those
of MVZ -- of "cheriway" & "plancus", and found significant morphological
differences, as well as "clearly distinct color patterns" in breast, vent, upper
back, lower back and upper tail coverts. Moreover, he found no clinal change
in plumage from south to north, thereby debunking the claim of Hellmayr &
Conover that there was a consistent intergradation "near the mouth of the
Amazon". It was the Hellmayr/Conover claim which caused the AOU to lump
Northern and Southern Crested Caracara in 1983.
Now I realize that an article proposing a taxonomic change is only one thing
that the AOU Checklist Committee uses in its deliberations. But in this case,
the junior author of the Wilson Bulletin article is the Chairman of the AOU
Anyway, I'm convinced by the data presented in the article, so if I happen to
see the Santa Cruz bird, I'll be sure to look at the upper tail coverts (if they are
strongly barred, the California Rare Birds Committee will have to figure out
how a Southern Crested Caracara got to S. Cruz -- and Oregon if this is the
same bird), and the upper breast (spots or bars).
Stephen M. Long
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
3101 Valley Life Sciences Building
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3160
PS: I just went to check the Crested Caracara specimens here at MVZ, and
curiously, there was a note in the case that Caracara plancus plancus was
now simply Caracara plancus, and Caracara plancus cheriway was now
simply Caracara cheriway, per AOU Supplement in 1999 -- but that
Supplement didn't mention the Caracara, and, of course if you go to the AOU
checklist on the web (http://www.aou.org/checklist/index.php3#falc2), you only
get "Caracara cheriway - Crested Caracara" because the area of the AOU
doesn't include the range for "plancus". Since the AOU has adopted C.
cheriway, this implies that C. plancus is a different species in the mind of
AOU. Without a "Northern" in the common name for cheriway, we are left with
two species with the same name: Crested Caracara.
I still prefer to use the modifiers Northern & Southern.
- The species was split by the AOU in their 42nd Supplement in 2000. The
citation for the split (into 3 species) is the Auk 117:847-858. The split was
Crested (_cheriway_), Southern (_plancus_) and Guadalupe (_lutosa_, extinct).
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