[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – I find it hard to resist looking around Lake Henshaw. It just seems to have such great potential for rare and unusual waterbirds. So when passing nearby the lake with my wife Leslie on 18 March 2015, on our way to Palm Springs, I suggested we rent a boat and look around. We set off clockwise around the lake in the small fishing skiff rented from the store. It was looking pretty blank for birds on the lake, except for the large number of Western and Clark’s Grebes, when I spied a familiar outline in the distance. Standing up in the boat I trained my eyes on a very distant bicolored bird at the waters edge. There’s no way! But sure enough, as we puttered over in the skiff, it became apparent that a subadult Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway was wading around in the shallow water of the north lake shore! I could hardly believe my eyes as the wading raptor looked around lifting up some kind of dead prey item from the water. I have noted before that this species can often be seen around water bodies, poking around with its long bare legs so I guess its presence here should not be such a big surprise. I was just not ready mentally for a Crested Caracara tucked in with a flock of American White Pelicans standing in the shallows!
This appears to be a second year subadult bird with buffy coloration about the lower neck with some horizontal dark barring. The wings and upperparts appeared faded looking and dark brown. The face actually became more strongly pinkish as we approached closer in the boat. The legs were a quite bright yellow coloration. We edged the boat as close as we could in the shallow water, eventually stalling the small outboard motor in the mud. The Crested Caracara flew up a few times moving short distances but seemed all the while intent on feeding in a quite small area of water just a couple inches deep. So far as I can tell it was picking up various dead animals, one looks like a wading bird with its legs hanging down.