We tracked 48 young Crested Caracaras (Caracara plancus) in south-central Florida from fledging through their first year and sought to define the post-fledging pre-dispersal period and the timing and drivers of permanent departure (PD) from the natal area. By examining Euclidean distances between telemetry locations and the nest for each tagged caracara, we defined the post-fledging dependency period as the first 2 mo after fledging, when fledglings remained mostly within 2.5 km of the nest and were dependent on their parents for food. Before PD, young caracaras explored areas as much as 11 km from their nest but returned to the natal area, resulting in areas used by fledglings up to 6 times the average home range size of an adult breeding pair. Some caracaras remained within their parents’ home range for several months after fledging, even after becoming independent of their parents for food. A fledgling permanently departed its natal area when telemetry indicated it made an abrupt long-distance movement away from its natal area and did not return. We used generalized linear mixed models and a hierarchical modeling approach to test environmental and biological factors that may affect the timing of PD. The most supported model indicated that PD depended on parental reproductive strategy and on the timing of fledging relative to the length of the breeding season. Birds with parents that raised only one brood remained in the natal area for 11.6–21.0 wk longer than birds with parents that raised multiple broods in the same breeding season; fledglings from the first of two broods departed at a younger age, suggesting that the PD decision is partially triggered by the level of parental investment in the first and subsequent brood. Additionally, birds that fledged early in the breeding season departed the natal area 2.8–12.2 wk earlier than those that fledged later in the breeding season, and birds that were exposed to high heat during the nestling stage departed the natal area earlier than those exposed to less heat. The period between fledging and permanent departure from the natal area is important for the conservation of species with delayed dispersal. When developing a conservation strategy for Florida’s caracara population, attention should be paid to protecting areas used by fledglings until PD rather than just focusing on a limited protection zone around the nest.

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