Sunday, June 20, 2021

"A Most Remarkable Creature"

"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.

lifers_peru 55
Yellow-Headed Caracara, Maranon River, Peru, February, 2017.

lifers_peru 59
Black Caracara, Maranon River, Peru, February, 2017.


texaslifers 8
Crested Caracaras, Aransas Bay, Texas, October, 2016.

Crested Caracara, Costa Rica, December, 2019.

Striated Caracara, Staten Island, Argentina, October, 2017.

12 comments:

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

How truly amazing you have actually seen all these birds of prey. I'm in awe of all the places you have traveled and how birds play such an important role in your travels, too. Great photos, Mae.

Greg said...

Love the ictures! The first and especially the fourth one- so inspiring!

Tandy | Lavender and Lime (http://tandysinclair.com) said...

Wow, the photographs are amazing! Especially of the birds in flight.

My name is Erika. said...

This book sounds fantastic. I added it to my wish list.

Jeanie said...

These are terrific. Cheers to you and Len for capturing such wonderful images.

Tina said...

Birds in flight phptos are great. I have a few from our trip but they are of more ordinary birds such as Blue jays and Hawks.

Anu said...

Hello.
Interesting post. Wonderful photos.
Have a nice weekend.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Mae,

I will have to check on this book, it sounds interesting. I loved all your photos of the Caracaras and the cute Sea Lion. Great post. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend. PS, thank you for the comment and visit.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It really is a wonderful feat to actually get to see these raptors in person. I saw a Kestrel this week and it was small and beautiful. Love that book. I think I need it!

Rain said...

Those are some beautiful photos, especially the Crested Caracaras!

Linda said...

Interesting post.

Yvonne said...


Wow! So fortunate to have taken trips abroad and viewed so much wildlife that is different from home. Interesting photos.