Caracara Birds

For a little change of pace, which is delightful, my week has been really quiet. No meetings and getting to do pretty much whatever I wanted. I’ve gotten a little sewing done, spent a couple of days waiting on phone calls and the TV guy. Now the TV cable is working fine, if they just do the rest of the stuff they’re supposed to, and that is get me off the high priced plan they have me on. Supposedly changing the ‘box’ to one that is not HDTV is supposed to do the trick, I certainly hope so. My niece was told that they no longer make the non-HDTV box and I had to have that one. This was after they sent me a rebuilt box of the old type and it lasted about a month or two. Now, the tech tells me they still do make them, but there are never over one or two in the warehouse. Luckily for me, it was the same tech that came out before and didn’t have the box to replace mine. He stopped by the warehouse and he said there was only one and about thirty plus orders for them. Oh, well, that’s life in the fast lane here in Yoakum, TX.
This past weekend I was in the Devine area for some family fun. My twin granddaughters were in and I came down on Friday afternoon so that I could spend some time with them. We have lots of crafty ideas and fun things planned for our time together. On Sunday, another great-granddaughter was baptized and I was so happy to be able to be with the family for this. I’ll tell you more about my weekend next week, as I’m writing this on Thursday evening and it’s all in the future. And, when I get back home, my brother and his wife will be here for a week or so. They live in north Texas and they don’t always get down very often. I did get to see them when my daughter and I went to the wedding in Alabama, as it was their granddaughter that got married!
My land and my brother’s land here in Yoakum are leased out for cattle and hay, and recently, the young man who leases it mowed the hay. The next morning as I looked out my kitchen window, there was several crows (the crows down here are larger than game chicken hens), and several caracaras. I had to call my son to find out exactly what they were; and he told me that and then explained to me that they were probably eating small things, such as snakes, rodents and lizards the mowing machine had run over. You can never see what they are actually eating.
They have continued to come throughout the ensuing week and I’ve had a great time watching them as they stalk around pecking at the ground, and gotten intrigued by them, (which is where I got the idea for this column). They mostly walk around on the ground and the crows fly from place to place. There are usually from four to six of the caracaras.
The first time I noticed a caracara, it was alongside a road we were traveling in Medina County, and this strange bird was with some buzzards and Sam told me it was a Mexican Eagle. Years down the line, my son told me that the actual name was caracara bird. We were on our way out to the deer lease and we stopped and watched as it ran several feet before it took off, it was beautiful to see.
In going on-line and looking information up about this strange looking bird, I found that they are a member of the falcon family and other interesting little things, such as that in Arizona they build their nests in Saguaro cactus and actually prefer it to be one standing alone rather than in a place where there is a multitude of the cacti.
The common name “cara cara” is what South Americans called the bird and most probably imitates the sound the bird makes. It has also been called: Mexican Eagle, Caracara Eagle, King Buzzard, Audubon’s Caracara and Mexican Buzzard.
The original scientific name for this bird comes from poly, the Greek word for many or varied; boros, meaning gluttonous and remarks on the bird’s voracious appetite, and from the Latin word plances, which is a word Aristotle used for an eagle.
The Crested cara cara has a body length of 19 to 23 inched and a wingspan of about four feet. They weigh about one and three-fourths to three and one-half pounds.
The preferred habitat of the Crested Caracara is open lowland countryside, such as pastures, savannas, river edges and the desert. They reside in the southwestern United States and Florida as well as Central and South America.
You frequently see them feeding on carrion alone or in the company of buzzards on the sides of roads. I have seen them between Devine and Hondo as well as between Devine and Jourdanton and various places between Devine and Yoakum. They will, however, take advantage of any food opportunity, by eating such things as small mammals, reptiles, turtles, fish, crab, eggs, insects, worms and nesting birds. They hunt for food themselves or take food from other birds. They also spend a great deal of time on the ground.
Crested caracaras build a massive nest from small sticks. (The first article I found concerning them was about a study in Arizona, in 1997-1998, and the folks doing the study stated that the nests were used more than once, and that they had found one the size of a Volkswagen.) The nest is built in a palm tree, cactus, in a tree or on the ground. There are usually two or three eggs laid, that incubate for about a month. The fledglings can take as long as three months before they fly as independent birds.
Now, the next time you see that strange looking bird with the black and off-white plumage eating alongside the road, you will know what it is!
Enough about wild scavengers, let’s turn our attention to some of the human variety. Just exactly how much can a horde of hungry children eat during the day during summer vacation? A lot from what I have noticed. You try to get them to eat balanced meals, but there was one day when my grandson was here (a horde of one), that he had a good breakfast and 15 minutes later was eating an ice cream bar, 15 minutes later scavenging for something else and this continued until lunchtime, when he ate a full meal.
All kids seem to love pizza, and you can make it as healthy as you like by using various ingredients. A pizza can be topped with vegetables as well as lean ground meat, sausage or Canadian bacon or ham, along with low-fat cheese. The following recipe is from my daughter. I made it and everyone loved everything except the dreaded black slices I put on it (sliced black olives). Mushrooms, either fresh or canned are great as are onions, peppers or anything you think you can get the family to eat as a topping.
Pizza Dough
(Makes 2 large pizzas)
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cups whole wheat flour
2 to 3 cups white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 package dry yeast
2 teaspoons oregano or mixed Italian seasoning
¼ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon red pepper
4 to 6 oz spaghetti sauce or more if you like (roasted garlic)
½ lb. sausage or hamburger, cooked and well drained
Cheese – 8 to 12 oz, shredded mozzarella, shredded mixed 4 cheese for pizza, grated or shredded parmesan or mixture to your desire
8-oz can of mushrooms, well drained
4-oz can black sliced olives
Put dough ingredients and optional ingredients you choose into bread maker and set bread maker to dough cycle. After machine has been blending dough for several minutes, add additional flour as needed until dough forms a smooth ball and moves around freely within the container. (If you are unfamiliar with the dough cycle on your bread maker, it is best to add only two tablespoons of flour at a time and let it blend in well before adding more – some machines take longer to mix the dough.) When the dough cycle is complete, usually 1½ to 1¾ hours, divide dough between two 12-inch to 15-inch pizza pans which you have sprayed with cooking spray. Spray your hands with cooking spray before you begin pressing dough onto pans to within ½-inch of pan edges. Let dough rise 30 to 40 minutes or until doubled in bulk (about 1½-inches thick). Preheat oven to 375ºF and cook pizza dough until very lightly browned (7 to 12 minutes). This prevents the pizza from being “doughy” in the middle. Top with your favorite pizza sauce, cheese and toppings, and cook an additional 10 minutes at 400ºF. (You may wish to put pizza under broiler during the last few minutes of cooking to melt the cheese more completely.) Virginia topped this pizza with sausage, black olives and mushrooms. You could use anything you wanted for topping including cheese only or sautéed onions and bell peppers.
The sausage or hamburger meat needs to be thoroughly cooked and well drained before putting on the pizza. Also, she used turkey sausage but bulk pork sausage is fine also. This is one of those times you get to use your imagination!
The following recipe for pizza is one that appeared in the Victoria Advocate in the early 1980s. I used it for years for my family and we all liked it. It is very simple, as it doesn’t require many steps. With a minimum of supervision, kids could do this one themselves, as no bread maker is involved; it’s just a matter of mixing the dough, spreading it in pans and baking it.
1 package dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
4½ cups all-purpose flour
Combine yeast and water, stir until yeast is dissolved. Add oil and flour and mix well. Divide dough into thirds and spread in three pizza pans.
Pizza Sauce
1 pound ground meat or pan sausage
3 cans (8-oz each) tomato sauce
2 teaspoons whole oregano
2 teaspoons whole basil
Garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste
1 to 1½ packages shredded mozzarella cheese
Vegetables, pepperoni, Canadian bacon or another toppings you desire
Sauté meat until no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Spread on prepared dough, top with cheese and any other toppings you desire. Bake at 375ºF for 25 to 30 minutes.