There are no crows in South America.
We have been birding in South America for two years. Our wildlife photography expeditions take us to Argentina, Chile and Peru and we’ve crossed the Andes five times.
During these travels we have missed seeing our feathered friends, the Crows. This is not surprising as there are no crows in South America.
Why are there no crows in South America ?:
There are three reasons.
- 1 From an evolutionary perspective the North American crows originated in what is now Asia.
- 2 The North American crow species have not moved south, probably because there is no reason to do so.
- 3. There is ample competition from Mexico southwards, with a number of families of birds which have evolved to occupy a similar ecological niche as crows, the Caracaras for instance, of which there are eleven species.
The family of Caracaras are in fact closely related to Falcons, but in the field we noted that their behaviour and ecology closely resembles that of the Crows.
We have seen three species so far on our travels in South America, the commonest being the Crested Caracara (see above). This species has taken advantage of the agricultural revolution that has swept over South America in the last fifty years. The bird is omnivorous and we have counted hundreds on them, feeding on invertebrates on wide swathes of agricultural land.
The Mountain Caracara (see above) lives in the Andes. We found this nest site high on a sheer cliff in the Los Cardones National Park in the NW of Argentina.
The Yellow-headed Caracara lives in Northern Argentina and Brazil.
All these three Caracaras are scavengers by nature, like the Crows.
In that respect they are highly beneficial, clearing away rotting carcasses and waste, nature’s own cleaning machines!