Crested caracaras are big – the second-largest falcons in the world
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – At Health First’s Viera Hospital, a couple of falcons have found a rotation. Like the staff, they’re aiming to get patients out of bed and smiling.
Colette Hendren is a longtime fourth-floor clinical charge nurse at Viera Hospital. In that role, she keeps a close watch on patients and staff. But recently, she’s had some rather unconventional (but welcome) backup.
A couple of crested caracaras roosting along the roofline of the five-story building have been visiting and entertaining staff and patients on the top floors.
“He comes and he knocks on our windows, and if you come over and crack your blinds at the bottom, you’ll see him knocking. If you knock on the glass yourself, he’ll knock with his foot, and he’ll play with you,” Hendren said.
The birds are most likely to round on the floors between sunrise and 9 a.m., she said.
The first experience was kind of scary because staff aren’t accustomed to answering knocks at windows.
“We open up the blinds, and there was this huge bird just sitting there.”
The bird flew away, but he soon came back, and now he will bob his head to peak between slats and see what’s happening.
Crested caracaras are big – the second-largest falcons in the world – and not abundant throughout Florida, the northern-most tip of their habitat in the hemisphere. They’re demonstrably bold, social and playful. For patients, it’s a nice diversion.
“There was a patient I had a couple of weeks ago. He kept his blinds open the whole time after the bird’s first visit. Every single morning, around the same time, the bird would come and play with the patient because he had his windows open.”
Nurse Lisa Peterson works in the infusion clinic next door at the Viera Medical Plaza. Her mother was a fourth-floor patient recently.
“He visited her frequently, and we started calling him ‘Frank the Falcon.’ My mom really looked forward to his visits. I told my coworkers and showed them pictures, and they helped me with the name change – Carlos the Crested Caracara.”
“It’s probably something that everyone looks forward to,” Hendren said.
“When you tell the patients not to get surprised if they hear knocking on their windows here on the fourth floor, it cheers them up. We’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s just the falcon that comes to visit ….’ It makes the patient want to open up their blinds, bring in the sunlight. Then, when the bird does come, they take pictures and they play with the bird. It’s something to look forward to.”
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