Other Birds of the Falklands
November 2009
The Johnny Rook, or Striated Caracara  has been recognised as a very unusual bird of prey in the Falklands for two
centuries. Charles Darwin visited Port Louis, East Falkland, in autumn 1833 and 1834. He was one of the first to report on the
Johnny Rook's behaviour and wrote that it was 'exceedingly numerous', 'constantly haunted the neighbourhood of houses to
pick up all kinds of offal', was 'extraordinarily tame and fearless' and 'very mischievous and inquisitive, quarrelsome and
passionate'. Sheep were introduced and farming developed from about 1850 on East Falkland and 1867 on West Falkland.
From February 1858 to December 1860, Captain Abbott of the Falkland Islands Detachment of Royal Marines travelled widely
on East Falkland. His account (Woods & Woods 1997) of the Johnny Rook began with the statement, 'This is one of the
commonest birds in East Falkland.' Abbott recorded that he visited North Camp (East Falkland) in December 1860 and, 'found
at least 15 nests along the cliffs'.

Less than 50 years later, in 1908, this intriguing bird was classified as a pest of sheep farming when it was included in an
Ordinance for the Destruction of Birds of Prey. The FI Government agreed to pay bounties for Johnny Rooks killed and by
1910, Arthur Cobb, the Bleaker Island farm manager, wrote that it had decreased in numbers. In 1922, the Government
Naturalist, James Erik Hamilton, wrote to FI Government that its numbers on East and West Falkland were very low because it
had been subjected to 'a remorseless process of extermination'. Hamilton pointed out to the FIG that ceasing the payment of
bounties 'would remove from Government the liability to reproach from scientists that encouragement was given to the
extermination of one of the ornaments of the local avifauna'. Hamilton also believed that 'the persistent plentifulness of the
Upland Goose could be attributed at least in part to the diminution of the Johnny Rook and the senseless killing of hawks'.

Bounty payments ceased over 70 years ago, but the relationship between Johnny Rooks and sheep farming has remained
controversial and large numbers were still being killed on the outer Jason Islands during the annual sheep-shearing visits in
the 1960s.
Curiously, the Striated Caracara is most plentiful around the residences on the islands. In some instances it is because some
of the locals have taken to feeding this bird. Below, the Chilean cook at Carcass Island feeds a Caracara.
The crested Caracara is supposed to be more common than the Striated Caracara, but not for visitors. We only saw this one
couple on Saunders Island. They were sitting above the nest which had a small chick in the nest.
Night Herons were fairly common along the rock shores with the herons sitting under rock ledges.
Below, an immature night heron on Carcass Island.
There are lots of Geese on the islands. Their population is quite large, partly because the Caracara population has been
reduced. Below, Upland Geese. Far Below, Ruddy-headed Geese.
Magellanic Oyster Catchers were quite common and the parents were now caring for their young. Frequently, we could not see
the chick. The chicks are small and the parent oyster catcher would have them crouch in the grass. Then the parent oyster
catcher would make loud noise to distract us and try to lead us away from the chick.
Below, an obedient chick crouching in the grass.
We saw quite a few Magellanic Snipe. They were somewhat hard to see at first and posed a challenge to photograph as they
blend into the grass.
On our last day on Sea Lion Island, we watched these flightless Steamer Ducks swim, bathe, fish, and play just off the beach.
Two-Banded Plover