Guadalupe Caracara, Caracara lutosa

The Guadalupe Caracara, also known as Quelili or the Calalie, is an extinct bird of prey belonging to the falcon family, Falconidae. With the closely related Crested and Southern Caracara, it was formerly placed in the genus, Polyborus. Until the beginning of the 20th century, this species lived on Mexico’s Guadalupe Islands. This bird was described as “evil” or “vicious” by early observers. Goat herders led a poisoning campaign that ended up in the extinction of The Guadalupe Caracara.

In 1776, the species was common throughout the island, however, in March 1897, only one bird was spotted, but more members of their kind survived. Rollo Beck encountered 11 and preserved 9 as scientific specimens on December 1, 1900. He may have shot the last of the caracaras, believing from the ease of finding them and their fearlessness that they were common. There was only one more unconfirmed sighting in 1903, but they were definitely gone in 1906.

These birds were one of the very few species rendered extinct intentionally by humans. In this particular case, goat farmers demanded that the birds be killed off because they were known to feed on young goats (though the role of the bird feeding on young goats was highly exaggerated). It stands to note that their former home was, at that time, being devastated by tens of thousands of goats gone feral. That led to the extinction of several other endemic species as well.

To this day, roughly 35 specimens including skins, skeletons, and two eggs still remain in public collections.

Image Caption: Guadalupe Caracara (Caracara lutosa). Credit: John James Audubon/Wikipedia