Last Saturday while I was off birding elsewhere, Vincent Nichnadowicz discovered a Crested Caracara in a field at Grover Farm, a historic preservation site in West Windsor, New Jersey. The bird stuck around, and since then numerous birders have gone to see and document it. Yesterday morning I finally had a chance to see it. Getting there took more than twice as long as it should have, as traffic on US 130 was backed up for miles because of a truck accident that shut down the New Jersey Turnpike. By the time we got to the site, the caracara had already left its overnight roost on a utility pole and was foraging on the ground in a depression on the far side of the field. Its head was just barely visible above the alfalfa.
reviewed here) mentions two previous records, neither of which was accepted by the New Jersey Bird Records Committee. The first was in Colonia in 1976 and was so tame that birders assumed it had escaped from captivity. The second was seen at Sandy Hook on May 5, 2007. In both cases, the NJBRC rejected the records because they were unsure if the birds were actually wild. Historically, Crested Caracara was considered a sedentary species, unlikely to travel much beyond its normal range. However, as Nate Swick and various commenters discuss on the ABA Blog, there have been enough sightings of the species across the continent in recent years to suggest that caracaras may be more prone to vagrancy than previously thought. Some local birders are speculating that this individual was blown north by the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. That may be true, or it may have flown here under different circumstances. Many birders from the area are seeing and documenting this bird's appearance and behavior so hopefully we will have a clearer idea of this individual's status than the previous two sightings.