The Northern-crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is a striking and majestic bird of prey (a raptor). It’s found in Latin America from Cuba, Mexico, to northern South America. There have been occasional sightings in Florida, Texas, and parts of California in the United States, but those sightings are rare. Its body length is typically 49-58 cm (19-23 in) with a wingspan of 107-130 cm (42-51 in) and weighing 800-1,365 g (1.76-2.99 lbs). As you can see from the photos the Caracara’s coloring and plumage is spectacular. Click on image to enlarge.
I photographed this particular specimen early in the morning (in Yucatan, Mexico) 2-1/2 years ago. He was in deep shade with some sunlight illuminating his head and upper shoulders but everything else faded into deep shadow. Luckily the sunlight put a nice catch-light in its eye (always important in portraiture whether human or animal). I only got a couple of quick snaps and was very happy when he gave his feathers a slight ruffle just before I clicked. The soft warm morning light combined with his natural colors and feather definition made the shot (the contrasting orange and blue on his head nicely offset his otherwise earth-toned colors).
His back and shoulders pretty much faced me, but he obligingly cocked his head towards me slightly placing it in semi-profile. He was a great subject. My back was to the sun and what sunlight reached him over my shoulder lighted him almost perfectly. He was about 30 meters away from me and I was shooting with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM zoom telephoto lens with a 1.4x teleconverter giving me an effective focal length of 280mm (forcing me to crop tightly in post). I wish I had my Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super telephoto prime lens instead but, alas, I didn’t.
Technical Data: Captured as a CameraRAW file with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame digital camera and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM zoom telephoto lens with 1.4x teleconverter. Camera settings: 1/250s @ f/5.6 ISO 1600 @ 280mm. RAW conversion using Adobe CameraRAW (ACR) and post-edit adjustments completed in Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11). Adjustments included: Cropping, White Balance, lightening feather shadow areas for more detail, minor adjustments to saturation and sharpening. SFD
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller