By David Rookhuyzen firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan 19, 2016
This northern crested caracara was photographed this month on state trust land east of Sahuarita. While once rare, caracaras are becoming more common in this part of the state.
Southern Arizona is starting to attract more snowbirds of a different feather, but nobody's quite sure why.
During the past few years, sightings of the once-rare northern crested caracara, a vulture-looking member of the falcon family, have become more common around Green Valley and Sahuarita.
Along with the golden eagle, it is listed as Mexico's national bird and is sometimes called “the iron cross” for the white markings seen on its wings while flying.
The caracara's range spreads from the northern portion of South America, up through Mexico – where they are common – and into parts of Southern Arizona, Texas and the Southeastern United States.
Doug Moore, a bird-watching enthusiast and member of Friends of Madera Canyon, said caracaras would occasionally be seen west of Sahuarita and Green Valley on the Tohono O'odham Nation. People would catch a rare glance along State Route 86 or near the landfill in Sells.
“If you got lucky, you would see one or two,” he said.
Now, however, Moore is hearing about more sightings in Green Valley and Sahuarita and farther east. Last month, he caught sight of one flying over the Pima County Fairgrounds. To the north in the Santa Cruz Flats area, west of Picacho Peak, the population has increased to more than two dozen.