In September of 2016, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware was treated to an unexpected visitor in the wake of Hurricane Hermine that delighted birders and non-birders alike - a Crested Caracara. This large raptor is a member of the falcon family, though unlike its close relatives, this species frequently feeds on carrion in the company of vultures. Crested Caracara are typically found in the tropics, with the northernmost extent of their range occurring in the United States in southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is not unheard of for birds to show up in places we do not expect them, but this individual was particularly unique in that it is only the second individual of its species recorded in the First State, the first seen in March of 2013 for several weeks before disappearing. Though the 2016 bird has not been reported in Delaware since January, it was frequently spotted by birders foraging at the baseball fields off of Holland Glade Road in Rehoboth, and because of its large body size, was likely not negatively affected by temperatures colder than it is used to.
Birders flocked from all over the Delmarva Peninsula and beyond to see this very out of place individual. The Caracara was frequently observed at the baseball fields in Rehoboth Beach off of Holland Glade Road behind the Tanger Outlets. This unique rarity was an exciting supplement to Delaware’s already fantastic winter birding, which boasts over thirty-five species of ducks and geese and many winter specialties such as Snow Bunting, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Dark-eyed Junco’s. While Red-Knots and the many species of shorebirds that migrate through our state in spring and summer frequently steal the show when it comes to bird news, those who explore the beaches, marshes, and forests of the state beyond these times will almost certainly always be rewarded with rich and diverse bird life sightings.