This Animal Life

Why People Love These Wicked, Wanton Flying Monkeys

November 14, 2021

Join Lisa for a rollicking conversation with Jonathan Meiburg, musician and author of A Most Remarkable Creature: the Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World’s Smartest Bird of Prey. Called "Johnny rooks," "false eagles," "flying monkeys," "shiftless wanderers of rubbish pits," and so much more, the caracara is a cheeky Muppet of a bird. Each of the ten species is notorious for curiosity, charm, and chicanery. You might not want to share an apartment with one, but you will never regret getting to know them. 

Want to follow up on our sources or watch any of the videos we mention? Go to and click on Show Notes or see below.



An Evening with Jonathan Meiburg and Jeff VanderMeerBooks & Books, YouTube, April 2021. 

De Waal, Frans. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? WW Norton, 2016.

Fallowfields Falconry - Meet Boo the Intelligent Caracara” YouTube, December 2011.

Geoff & Tina,” Caught by The River, March 2021. 

Geoff Pearson and Tina video, “Clever Bird,” YouTube, August 2008.

Genius Dog Challenge about word-learning in dogs, “Squall the Genius Dog,” This Animal Life, podcast, August 2021. 

Gibson, Graham, The Bedside Book of Birds, Nan A. Talese, 2005.

The Great Ape Escape” the story of the orangutan Fu Manchu who fashioned a key and hid it in his lip, This Animal Life, podcast, August 2021.  

Harrington, Katie, & Jonathan Meiburg “Use of appeasement display and recruitment by an adult Striated Caracara (Phalcoboenus australis) to overcome territorial defense,” Wilson Journal of Ornithology, August 2021.

Larue the Crested Caracara and fearful behavior,” with Hillary Hankey, Avian Behavior Institute, June 2003.  

Sean McCann, “Red-Throated Caracara’s are Way Cool Because . . .” YouTube, February 2014. Keep up with caracara expert Sean McCann on Twitter

Meet Kevin the Caracara” Falconry and Me, YouTube, April 2020.

Jonathan Meiburg interviewed on “The Bedside Book of Birds with Margaret Atwood, David Sibley, Jonathan Meiburg, and Jessica Leber” Doubleday Publishing, YouTube, March 2021.

Jonathan Meiburg’s most remarkable book is A Most Remarkable Creature: 

The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey

Jonathan Meiburg interviewed on “Science and Nature: From the Page to Wilder Places,” Los Angeles Times Events, April 23, 2021. 

Jonathan Meiburg interviewed for Paris Review Interview, by John Jeremiah Sullivan, April 2021.

 Morrison, Joan, lecture on “Crested Caracaras,” Orange Audubon Society, YouTube, December 2020. 

Pepperberg, Irene M., Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process, Collins, 2008.

Pilley, John W. Dr., Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2013.

Project Aims to Save Rare Bird,” Tampa Bay Times, 2005.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which sent Jonathan to the Falkland Islands in 1997.

 Vanderbilt University, “Study Gives New Meaning to the Term ‘Bird Brain.’” Neuroscience News, June 2016.

 Wallace, Amy, “Meet the Birds: Zorro the Striated Caracara,” Falconry and Me, YouTube, April2020.



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