The Striated Caracara, (Phalcoboenus australis) is also known as the Johnny Rook. Existing in the Falkland Islands, these birds of prey are of the Falconidae family.
Plumage on the adults is almost black in color, but the legs and lores are orange. Grey coloring can be found around the neck. The first year the young have an orange or light red down. First molt brings about the loss of the orange or red, turning in to the adult coloring.
The Johnny Rook breeds in several islands in the Tierra del fuego, but is more abundant in the Falklands where the population is estimated at about 500 breeding pairs.
The Striated Caracara are scavengers, primarily. They feed on carrion, offal and small vertebrates. Using its claws, it can dig up these tasty tidbits. They will also feed off of injured or weak creatures. Johnny Rooks have been known to attack newborn lambs or weakened sheep, which leads to attacks by sheep farmers.
Johnny Rooks are intelligent birds of prey. They will move rocks to investigate possible insect meals or they will tear in to bins to grab a bite. These pests are also known to grab items from humans that tend to be red in color. This could prove they are not color blind, or that they see things in dull color vision, such as the eyesight of dogs. Red coloring resembling the color of meat may be what attracts them to this specific color.
Adults tend to build their nests around albatross or penguin societies, where food is abundant. The females will usually lay four eggs in their ground or cliff nests. Nesting will coincide with nesting habits of seabirds, to supply their young with plenty to eat.
Once the chicks are grown, they flock together and roam the islands. They show no fear of humans and will attack campsites in search of food. The Johnny Rook’s orneriness has brought about their demise by sheep farmers. The people of Falkland Islands are putting a stop to this, as the numbers of the Rooks were being reduced quickly.
In April of 2006, birds by the hundreds of thousands make their pilgrimage to the shores of this bird paradise; the Falkland Islands. National Geographic teams were in the Falkland Islands and had some immediate visitors. Johnny Rooks came in to the camp, tearing in to their camping gear. These distant cousins to the falcon took on toilet paper, tent ropes, and food dishes, aggravating the National Geographic team.
Striated Caracaras have been nicknamed “flying devils” by the mariners of the past. With the antics of these bold fowl, it seems the name fits.