What is a Caracara?

Goodness, when I put the date up here, I realized that the month of July is gone, however, the heat continues. Today, Sunday, when I started writing this, it was over 100º in the shade.
Last week was a fun week for me! As usual on the last week of the month, I headed from my home to the Devine/Moore area for my monthly bunco game and family visiting time. This time, my youngest daughter was there, taking care of two of her precious grandsons. We had a wonderful visit together on Wednesday, and I managed to get quite a few hugs! Later, when it was time for her to go to the airport in SA to get her daughter-in-law who was coming in from CA, returning from a family emergency, I left and headed out to my other daughter’s home.
Bunco that evening was in the home of our hostess, she had some delicious food and dessert for us, and we had a great time. She’s a great hostess and her newly remodeled home is beautiful and very spacious. Oh, and I won the booby prize with a mere five games won, any prize is better than no prize, at least I got my money back.
Saturday, I spent the morning at our family center helping make noodles for our upcoming church picnic; it’s that time of year again. I know we used 47 dozen eggs and an unknown amount of flour. We will package them Monday morning, in plastic bags to sell at the picnic. There will probably be about 95 pounds of the noodles. Clear profit, as everything to make them was donated. This is a great money maker, and they all sell every time! Next Saturday, we will make the delicious cream cheese and poppy seed rolls that go into the auction. That is our other big money maker for us, lots of work, but lots of visiting and meeting a few new ladies each year.
Now, as I asked in the beginning, do you know what a caracara is? I’m sure you have seen them alongside the roadside along with the buzzards, dining on roadkill, but not known exactly what they are.
The first time I noticed a caracara, we were on our way to the deer lease, it was alongside the road 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. Like the buzzard, the caracara is protected from hunting, trapping, etc. On another trip down Squirrel Creek Road, out past D’Hanis, there was one in the middle of the road taking a running start with his wings spread as he took off for the sky. It was beautiful seeing the span of the wings!
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 this name 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 birds’ 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 company of buzzards the sides of roads. I have seen them between Devine and Hondo as well as between Devine and Jourdanton and various other 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!
Now, how about a super simple, really delicious dessert? This makes up quickly, bakes only 30 minutes and serves 12 to 15; depending on the size you cut your servings.
Sopapilla Cheesecake
2 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-oz) blocks cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick melted butter (do not use margarine)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease or spray a 9×13-in. pan and roll out 1 package of the crescent rolls on the bottom of the pan, sealing creases. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and spread over the dough. Roll out the second crescent roll sheet and place on top of the cream cheese mixture. Pour melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the sugar and then the cinnamon, bake for 30 minutes.(I mix my cinnamon and sugar together, as I like this better).
This chicken salad is delicious and by using a rotisserie chicken, you don’t heat up your house cooking the chicken, so, it’s perfect for this weather!
Light Chicken Salad
3 or 4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced*
1 large Granny Smith apple, chopped
2/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Enough light mayonnaise to moisten**
Cook chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt and a small amount of onion and celery, cool until you can handle the meat, remove skin and bones and cut into small pieces. *In this hot weather, cheat a bit and buy a rotisserie chicken, even though you will have both light and dark meat.
Wash the apple, and cut it up, and add to the chicken, add remaining ingredients along with enough light mayonnaise to moisten. Serve with crackers, Melba toast or bread rounds. **I use regular mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing.