It is found in tropical and subtropical South America and the southern portion of Central America. The Yellow-headed Caracara is broad-winged and long-tailed. The adult has a buff head, with a black streak behind the eye, and buff underparts. The upper plumage is brown with distinctive pale patches on the flight feathers of the wings, and the tail is barred cream and brown. The head and underparts of immature birds have dense brown mottling.
The Yellow-headed Caracara is omnivorous, and will eat reptiles, amphibians and other small animals as well as carrion. It will also take ticks from cattle, and is sometimes called the ‘tickbird’. It has been observed also to forage for small invertebrates in the fur of brown-throated three-toed sloths and capybaras. In addition, younger birds are fond of certain fruits, such as those of the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and pequi (Caryocar brasiliense).