The Yellow-headed Caracara, Milvago chimachima, is a bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It is found in tropical and subtropical South America and the southern portion of Central America. Unlike the Falco falcons in the same family, the caracaras are not fast-flying aerial hunters, but are rather sluggish and often scavengers.
The Yellow-headed Caracara is 41–46 cm (16–18 in) cm long and weighs 325 g (11.5 oz) on average. The female is larger than the male, weighing 310–360 g (11–13 oz), against his 280–330 g (9.9–12 oz). It is broad-winged and long-tailed, somewhat resembling a small Buteo. The adult has a buff head, with a black streak behind the eye, and buff underparts. The upperparts are brown with distinctive pale patches on the flight feathers of the wings, and the tail is barred cream and brown.
The sexes are similar, but the head and underparts of immature birds have dense brown mottling. The voice of this species is a characteristic screamedschreee.
This is a bird of savannah, swamps and forest edges. The Yellow-headed Caracara is a resident bird from Costa Rica south through Trinidad and Tobago to northern Argentina (the provinces of Misiones, Chaco, Formosa, Corrientes and Santa Fe). It is typically found from sea level to 1,800 m (5,900 ft), occasionally to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) ASL. In southern South America, it is replaced by a close relative, the Chimango Caracara (Milvago chimango), whose range overlaps with that of the Yellow-headed Caracara in southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. A larger and stouterpaleosubspecies, Milvago chimachima readei, occurred in Florida and possibly elsewhere during the Late Pleistocene, some tens of thousand years ago. According to the Peregrine Fund database, the Yellow-headed Caracara is expanding its range into Nicaragua.