Caracara Studies

Whilst all the team work very hard here at S.O.S, we are always most grateful to our wonderful group of vounteers, who balk at no job however mucky or smelly. One of our volunteers, Kate, has been studying hard at Otley College - a local education centre which specialises in matters agricultural - and been doing some interesting research into the behaviour of two unusual raptors here at Stonham. Here’s what she had to say:

In October I began volunteering at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary to further my experience of working in the animal care industry in support of the Foundation Degree in Animal Management I am studying for at Otley. My studies in animal behaviour required me to perform an enrichment study on animals in captivity and I chose to study the behaviour of the Yellow Headed Caracaras at S.O.S., Carla and Rico.


The Bug Log was placed inside the Caracara’s Aviary

In their native regions the Yellow Headed Caracara is nicknamed the ‘Tick Bird’ due to its habit of riding on the backs of cattle and feeding on insects and parasites. The aim of my study was to offer Carla and Rico the opportunity to forage for insects within their enclosure. The enrichment device that provided foraging opportunities was simply a log with niches cut into it. Insects were placed in the niches for Carla and Rico to find and feed on.

The results show that the introduction of the device reduced the amount of vocalising performed by both birds; increased the foraging behaviour performed by Rico and increased the range of behaviours performed by Carla.


One of the Bugs used in the experiment

The results suggest that the percentage of time perching was unaltered, however observations revealed that the range of perches used was markedly increased after we introduced the enrichment device. Overall the study showed that the enrichment device provided the Caracaras with a new object of interest, and made them more active, which can be beneficial to their welfare. Also, it seems that Carla is developing quite a taste for mealworms!

Kate Whittaker