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      Nature Report: Raptors

      Perched majestically, the cara cara surveys its surroundings for any sign of prey.

      Although a member of the falcon family, this South Texas raptor will readily dine on carrion and is also very much at home on the ground, where it will use its long legs and powerful talons to catch lizards and snakes.

      Known as the Mexican eagle by some, the cara cara is thought to be the bird depicted on the original national emblem and flag of Mexico. The modern Mexican flag shows the golden eagle.

      In the western part of the Rio Grande Valley, the cara cara is often referred to as totache, which apparently derives from an old Indian term.

      However, something has startled this cara cara, and it abruptly takes flight.

      Arriving on the scene are three Harris' hawks, and while the totache may be larger, the Harris' hawks make up for any size disadvantage with group force.

      Harris' Hawks are unusually social as most birds of prey are primarily solitary. Harris' hawks often hunt cooperatively, working together to flush and pounce on prey.

      The female is slightly larger than the male, but both plumages are alike with dark chocolate brown feathering and distinctive bright chestnut thighs and shoulder patches.

      This handsome raptor was named by the famous ornithologist John James Audubon for his friend Edward Harris. This bird of prey has also been called the bay-winged and dusky hawk.

      Regardless of nomenclature, the cara cara and Harris' hawk are two of the Valley's signature raptors and worthy of our protection and admiration.

      If you are interested in seeing birds of prey like Harris's hawks and cara caras then Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge east of Rio Hondo is a great place to go.