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Caracaras Need Ranchlands

Dr. Joan Morrison holding a banded Crested Caracara with transmitter before release.

When Dr. Joan Morrison first arrived at Buck Island Ranch as a University of Florida graduate student to study Crested Caracaras, who knew she would still be coming to the ranch three decades later to study these intelligent birds of prey with orange faces, yellow legs, and jaunty black caps. One of Morrison’s initial findings was that Caracaras thrive on improved pasture habitats. She shared, "Caracaras get along well with cattle and all the activities associated with managing a ranch like burning, mowing and, of course, cattle grazing." These pastures are being converted for other uses like urban developments and more intensive agriculture like sugarcane. The Crested Caracara population in Florida is listed as Federally Threatened due to habitat loss. Buck Island Ranch has at least six pairs of nesting Caracaras. Morrison returned to Florida this past January to continue her research in collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District. She explained, "The purpose of this research is to band the birds and fit them with solar-powered transmitters. These transmitters collect location data revealing where they feed during the day and roost at night. Because I can track them via the Internet, I can begin to understand how Caracaras respond to ongoing regional land use changes." Morrison presented her Caracara research for a recent virtual event with Archbold and the East Foundation in Texas. Watch here.