Guadalupe Caracara

Category : birds

“No kid is safe from their attacks. Should a number be together, the birds unite their forces, and, with great noise and flapping of their wings, generally manage to separate the weakest one and dispatch it….The birds are cruel to the extreme, and the torture sometimes inflicted upon the defenseless animals is painful to witness. Even when food is plenty, they often attach living animals instead of contenting themselves with the carcasses of those already dead, seeming to delight in killing.”- Edward Palmer, 1876

It’s impossible to tell now how bloodthirsty this bird, a member of the falcon family, actually was; this description was written by a goat herder on Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Mexico. Goat herders banded together in the 19th century and conducted a formal campaign to drive this particular bird to extinction. The Caracara occasionally fed on young goats, though it seems like their role as predator has been exaggerated.

It stands to note that its home was at that time being devastated by tens of thousands of goats gone feral, leading to the extinction of several other endemic species, caused by the near-total destruction of habitat. It also stand to note that goats were not endemic to the island, but had been brought there by settlers. They were originally brought there in the early 19th century by Russia whalers for provisions when stopping over. Goats eventually eliminated most vegetation on the island, along with several other species, before their population collapsed.



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