'Extremely rare' bird shows its face in New Brunswick

A bird of prey typically found wandering South America and the deep south of the United States has been spotted in New Brunswick.

Spotting of bird known as one-day wonder for bird enthusiasts

A bird of prey typically found wandering South America and the deep south of the United States has been spotted in New Brunswick. 1:20

A bird of prey typically found wandering South America and the deep south of the United States has been spotted in New Brunswick.

Tanya Corbett, a St. George resident, recently saw the distinctive bird in her backyard and snapped a few pictures.

"I've taken pictures before of an eagle back there, and I thought it was an eagle at first when I saw a white patch, then I noticed it had some red," she said. " ... Then I got my camera and I zoomed in and that's when I saw it was a totally different bird I'd never ever seen here before."

While crested caracaras typically favour sweltering climates and do not live permanently in Canada, there have been a half-dozen sightings of them in New Brunswick in the last 15 years, according to Quispamsis birder Jim Wilson.

A confirmed sighting

Corbett said the bird appeared to be digging for food in her backyard.

"It was scratching and pecking like a chicken almost," she said, noting it was eventually joined by some crows, and stuck around long enough for a quick photoshoot.

A crested caracara shows its distinct face in a New Brunswick backyard. (Submitted/Tanya Corbett)

Wilson confirmed her identification of the bird to the CBC.

"The bird is patterned unlike any other North American bird, and it's a good-sized bird," Wilson said. "It's almost chicken-sized, like a long hawk. It's without question a crested caracara."

Far from home

The bird, a scavenger that searches for bugs and carcasses, has a distinct body shape, as well as bright skin around its beak. A unique striped pattern is also visible on the underside of its wings when flying.

Wilson said the bird is a rare treat for watchers in Canada, as they need to go far from where they are born to scavenge for food in the north.

A crested caracara seen in Saint John (Submitted/Tanya Corbett)

"Perhaps they get get picked up with the wind, maybe they get off direction, maybe they just want to explore," he said. "They cover surprising distances sometimes."

Typically the younger birds are the ones that will venture into Canada, he said, as once they are older, crested caracaras mate for life and do not travel far from their nest.

Unfortunately for birders, Wilson said the caracara is hard to track or lure.

"It's pretty difficult to make any predictions with a bird like this," he said. "They could go in any direction from St. George. Most of the records of these birds we have are one-day wonders."