While traveling through the Ecuador’s Andes mountains, we’ve seen lots of wildlife. As I went through my photos, I found this falcon-like bird. Here’s what I learned about Ecuador’s curiquingue.
In this post, you’ll learn about Ecuador’s curiquingue.
What is a Curiquingue?
The curiquingue is in the falcon family and resembles the vulture because of its naked face. It was considered to be sacred by the Incas.
From what I can tell, the term curiquingue is a general term that refers to three different species. Many sites use the following three names interchangeably. And while all three species are very similar, they have some distinctive features.
- Carunculated caracara (Spanish: caracara carunculado, Latin: Phalcoboenus carunculatus): chest and upper belly is black with white streaks
- Mountain caracara (Spanish: caracara paramuno, Latin: Phalcoboenus megalopterus): uniform black chest
- White-throated caracara: chest and belly are entirely white
Where does the caracara live?
- Carunculated caracara: Ecuador and Colombia
- Mountain caracara: from Southern Ecuador, through Peru and Bolivia, and to northern Argentina and Chile.
- White-throated caracara: Southern Chile and Argentina
The Curiquigue’s Other Names
The curiquingue is known by many names, including:
- matamico parameño
- matamico carunculado
- caracara paramuno
- caraca curiquingue
The caracara is known for being a highly opportunistic bird. It is commonly seen walking on the ground, foraging for bugs and small animals. The above Mountain Caracara was doing just that the day we photographed it.
We’ve also seen a pair of the Carunculated Caracara’s higher up in the Andes, around 13,000 ft above sea level. This is also the same area where there is a herd of wild horses.
The mountain caracara prefers unforested regions (see photo below). This allows them to overlook a large area. Notice the caracara in the center of the below photo.
This was shot at around 10,000 ft elevation. This area is located about 2 hours above Santa Isabel in Yunguilla Valley. The Yunguilla Valley is located halfway between the cities of Cuenca and Machala.
Curiquinque in Ecuador’s Culture
The feathers of the mountain caracara were used to decorate the crown of the Sapa Inca.
As a result of the Incan influence in modern-day Ecuador, there continues to be a traditional song and accompanying dance that is performed at special events.
When you arrive in Ecuador, you’ll likely hear this song within the first few days. Especially if you visit any tourist areas or festivals in the Andes.
Here is a good rendition of the song. When you visit Cuenca’s Parque Calderon, you’ll likely hear this song played with the zampoña, the Andean pan flute.
Curiquingue Music in Ecuador
Have you seen a curiquingue (caracara) in Ecuador? Please join us in the comments below!
- About the Author
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Hi, I’m Bryan Haines. And I’m a co-founder of Storyteller.Travel. I’m a traveler and photographer.
I also blog about photography on Storyteller Tech.
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[…] We used to see caracara falcons when we lived in southern Ecuador. I wrote about them here. […]
Thursday 2nd of February 2017
From Quito, I took the Teleférico up to the slopes of Volcán Pichincha. I hiked about 9 kilometers before I knew I had to turn back, just 2 kilometers short of the top. I made it to a rock overhang that forms a small cave, where I was startled to see a rather large bird standing next to a group of 4 people who were sitting on the ground. They explained to me that the bird was a curequingue, a bird I had never heard of. The bird was completely habituated to people and had clearly come to associate them with food as it walked around the cave fearlessly. The people left, and the curequingue and I hung out together for a while, although it was no longer getting any handouts. The bird wandered around the cave as if it owned the place, sometimes walking right up and eyeing me with curiosity. Hummingbirds flickered around in the bushes just outside the cave, while all of Quito was spread out below. At one point, the curequingue became agitated and let out some loud cries. I turned around to see another large bird had arrived at the other end of the cave, this one with completely different coloration. I learned later that they were both curequingues, the first one a juvenile and the new arrival an adult (I think). Then, without warning, a large slide of rocks and dirt came crashing down from above the cave, landing just a few feet away from me. I don't know what triggered the landslide; maybe a small earthquake that I was not able to feel. I looked around afterward, and both of the curequingues were gone, spooked by the landslide.
Thursday 2nd of February 2017
Great story and photos. Thanks for sharing!