Nothing attracts raptors, especially scavengers like vultures and Caracaras, like free food. Within just a few minutes of spreading a banquet of frozen chicken on the ground in front of our blind at Laguna Seca near Edinburg, Texas, the Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures began circling overhead, and a couple of Caracaras made swooping passes over the carcasses. Finally, they decided to test the meat.
Using their feet to hold the meat, Caracaras grab chunks of flesh or skin and tug on it until it rips free. They might immediately swallow big chunks but often fly off to a safer location where they can eat without competition from other birds.
Competition for food inevitably leads to some conflicts between individuals. Exactly what determines who gets to eat what and when may be influenced by the number of individuals of a particular species present, their size, age, and/or temperament.
In this mixed group of raptors species, the smaller Caracaras clearly had the edge, probably because of their numbers, although age didn’t seem to matter, with those aggressive juveniles badgering the adults for food. Both Vultures species were lower on the pecking order, despite their larger size, and took a backseat to both the Harris Hawk and the Caracaras. However, they stuck around to clean up the scraps after others had left the feeding area.
After two hours of intense feeding, there was nothing left but tiny scraps for the mammalian scavengers to clean up.