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Curiquingue: Sacred Bird of the Incans (Ecuador’s Caracara)

Posted in: Ecuador Facts, Ecuador Travel

While traveling through the 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.

Mountain caracara curiquingue Ecuador

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 it’s naked face. It was consider 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.

  1. Carunculated caracara (Spanish: caracara carunculado, Latin: Phalcoboenus carunculatus): chest and upper belly is black with white streaks
  2. Mountain caracara (Spanish: caracara paramuno, Latin: Phalcoboenus megalopterus): uniform black chest
  3. White-throated caracara: chest and belley are entirely white

What’s not to love about #carunculated #caracara? One of my all time favorite moments. #cotopaxi #ecuador

A photo posted by Stephanie Parker (@alligatorpoint_steph) on

Where does the caracara live?

  1. Carunculated caracara: Ecuador and Colombia
  2. Mountain caracara: from Southern Ecuador, through Peru and Boliva and to northern Argentina and Chile.
  3. White-throated caracara: Southern Chile and Argentina

The Curiquigue’s Other Names

The curiquingue is known by many names, including:

  • korequenke
  • corequenque
  • matamico parameño
  • matamico carunculado
  • caracara paramuno
  • caraca curiquingue

curiquingue falcon EcuadorThe 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.

Group Foraging: It is still unknown why some Mountain Caracaras use a group foraging method to hunt down food. Even though the hunting party may be able to overturn bigger rocks and cover more ground, the prey captured is usually not shared amongst the hunters and usually little to no benefit is received by the youngest in the group. The Caracara that decides on the most likely rock to move is usually the bird who grabs and eats the prey, though if enough food is available, all members could potentially receive a meal at some point during their forage. – Wikipedia, Mountain Caracara

caracara carunculado Ecuador

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.

mountain caracara Ecador

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 to hear this song played with the zampoña, the Andean pan flute.

Curiquingue Music in Ecuador

Watch on YouTube

And here is a well produced video showing the traditional dance to El Curiquingue.

El Curiquingue: Traditional Ecuador Dance

Watch on YouTube

Curiquingue in Ecuador

Your Turn

Have you seen a curiquingue (caracara) in Ecuador? Please join us in the comments below!

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

2 comments… add one
  • Michael Hanrahan Feb 2, 2017, 1:01 am

    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.

    Here is a page in my blog with photos of the 2 curequingues:
    http://wayoutthere.com/ecuador/pichincha-volcano.html

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