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#ABArare – Crested Caracara – New Jersey

Hot on the heels of a state first Elegant Tern comes word of a potential state first Crested Caracara in West Windsor Township, Mercer, New Jersey. The bird was found this morning (9/8) by Vincent Nichnadowicz.

photo by Nick Delo, used with permission

The location is approximately 10 miles east of Trenton, NJ.  From I-295, take NJ-33 (Mercerville-Edinburg Rd/Old Trenton Rd) east to  Edinburg Dutch Neck Rd and turn left.  The turn right on Village Rd to the Congregation Beth Chaim synagogue.

The bird is at the Grover Farm across from the Congregation Beth Chaim. It was in the alfalfa field and is currently in the big dead tree on
the farm.

The address of the synagogue is 329 Village Road E, West Windsor Twp, NJ.

CRCA location


According to Boyle’s Birds of New Jersey, the Garden State actually has two prior reports of this species, an almost certainly escaped bird from Middlesex County in 1976, and an unaccepted record from Sandy Hook in 2007 that “may have been of wild provenance”.

Obviously provenance is a concern when dealing with any extralimital raptor, but in the last decade Crested Caracara has established a fairly strong pattern of vagrancy around the western United States, with records from South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, and several in California.  In the eastern half of the continent, Massachusetts has hosted the species twice- as recently as 2007 – and Ontario has three records, most recently from James Bay in 2002. Even more, a report from Quebec just a couple weeks ago is more compelling in light of this Jersey record.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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  • Alan Wormington

    There are actually three records of Caracara for Ontario:

    1–July 18, 1892: Victoria Island, Thunder Bay District (Lake Superior)
    2–July 6, 1994: Pelee Island, Essex County — NOT Point Pelee!
    3–July 16-26, 2002: Fort Albany, Cochrane District (James Bay)

    The fact that all three were in July probably means something. As for #1, this is a remote island in Lake Superior and the bird was found dead after a storm. As for #3, this is a crazy record so far north that even Turkey Vulture has not been recorded in the area!

    I think it is time to stop suggesting that northern Caracara records pertain to possible escapees. If they are escapees, then dozens have systematically been escaping over the years yet, really, I think they are darn rare in captivity. But more importantly, the species is so common now in Texas that extra-limital records are to be expected.

  • Alan Wormington

    Forgot to mention. The Quebec and New Jersey sightings could obviously pertain to the same bird. Distance is not that unreasonable.

  • Alan Wormington

    All three records have been accepted by the Ontario Bird Records Committee as pertaining to wild birds.

  • Thanks for the clarification, Alan. I’ll adjust the post to fix it.

    I missed the most recent ON Caracara on the bird records website.

  • Bernie Sloan

    Michael Retter posted the following to the Illinois birding list in June 2011, after a Crested Caracara sighting in Indiana:

    “The following states/provinces have now accepted records or very recent records that are being voted upon:

    AL (2)
    CO (2)
    GA (1)
    ID (1)
    IA (1)
    IN (1)
    MA (2)
    MN (1)
    MS (2)
    MT (1)
    NV (1)
    NB (1)
    ON (3)
    OR (5)
    SD (1)
    WA (2)

    Not listed here are more than a dozen old rejected records from places like KS, NJ, PA, and MI. I suspect many of them will be reexamined.”

    Bernie Sloan

  • Alan Wormington

    There is also at least one record for British Columbia, but I do not know the status of that sighting. Definitely a Crested Caracara, just not sure the final outcome.

  • Sarah

    Is this guy still hanging around this area? Any idea how long he might stay? I’m wondering if the bird may have been on its way to some place else…

  • Jim

    Yes, the bird was seen this morning the 10th

  • Ted

    Just saw the bird at 1:30pm. Lots of good looks. Very cooperative.

  • Terri Underhill

    Oklahoma is not on your list and we have had confirmed sighting in Bryan County and in Perry Ok in 07 & Feb of this year.

  • Sir

    The farm where these two birds (the Caracara and an American Kestrel) has actually been scheduled for demolition by the township. The farm apparently is of great historical value to the town, so the township has authorized a committee to think of ways save the farm. They have also written about the birds on their site at The Caracara has, according to the site, been seen twice before in New Jersey. “One was thought to have escaped from the zoo, and the other was seen only briefly in flight”.

  • There seem to be a surplus of Caracaras here in South Florida. Research suggest that habitat in South Florida is saturated. The floaters on non-territorial caracara flocks have been steadily increasing. More dispersers like this are like to show up in unusual places.

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