"Indeed, nearly all the animals we regard as intelligent—baboons, crows, raccoons, caracaras, humans—are big-brained social generalists that thrive in unpredictable environments." -- A Most Remarkable Creature (p. 108).
Books on natural history and evolution sometimes seem to me to be incredibly wonderful. Jonathan Meiburg's A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey is one of the most enjoyable that I've read. I loved the way the author combined his personal experiences exploring many areas in South America with descriptions of the behavior and evolution of the various caracaras that he saw; the question of what makes a bird intelligent; portrayals of people he traveled with; and biographical details of earlier observers of South American wildlife. The unifying theme of this book is the character and intelligence of caracaras (Polyborinae), which are a subfamily of the falcons (order Falconiformes).
Rather than write a review of this great book, I would like to share my memories of seeing the birds and landscapes that Meiburg described. I found it really delightful to read about birds that I've seen on several trips to South America and elsewhere. On these trips, I have seen a number of caracaras of several different species -- as well as many other birds and animals, which made the book all the more interesting. I loved all the new things I learned from his book as well as the recollection of what I learned from the guides on these trips. Here are some of our photos of several types of caracaras, which we have enjoyed seeing in a number of places.
|A striated caracara with a sea lion. October, 2017, Staten Island, Argentina.|
Three Striated Caracaras, Staten Island, Argentina, October, 2017.
This species is one of the author's favorites. We couldn't tell
what they were doing, and it might have been simply playing!
|Southern Crested Caracara, Torres del Paine Park, Chile, October, 2017.|
|Yellow-Headed Caracara, Maranon River, Peru, February, 2017.|
|Black Caracara, Maranon River, Peru, February, 2017.|
|Crested Caracaras, Aransas Bay, Texas, October, 2016.|
|Crested Caracara, Costa Rica, December, 2019.|
|Striated Caracara, Staten Island, Argentina, October, 2017.|