Red-legged seriema

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Red-legged seriema
Cariama cristata -near Goiania, Goias, Brazil-8.jpg
Near Goiânia in central Brazil
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cariamiformes
Family: Cariamidae
Genus: Cariama
Brisson, 1760
C. cristata
Binomial name
Cariama cristata
(Linnaeus, 1766)



  • Microdactylus marcgravii É.Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809
  • Palamedea cristata Linnaeus, 1766

The red-legged seriema (Cariama cristata), or crested cariama, is a mostly predatory terrestrial bird in the seriema family (Cariamidae), included in the Gruiformes in the old paraphyletic circumscription, but increasingly placed in a distinct order Cariamiformes (along with three extinct families). The red-legged seriema inhabits grasslands from Brazil south of the Amazon to Uruguay and northern Argentina. The area over which it occurs is estimated at 5.9 million km², though the bird is not found everywhere in this region of course. The species is absent from the Mata Atlântica and planalto uplands along the coast of Brazil.[1] Unlike the black-legged seriema, farmers often use them as guard animals to protect poultry from predators and sometimes human intruders.[2]


Close-up of Cariama cristata

It is 75 to 90 cm (30 to 36 in) long and weighs about 1.5 kg, with a fairly long neck, tail, and legs. The plumage is medium brown above with black markings; pale brown on the head, neck, and breast; and white on the belly. The tail has a black band near the tip and a white tip. The beak and legs are red, and the eyes are yellow. Soft feathers emerge from the base of the bill to form a fan-shaped crest.[3]

Many other characteristics are shared with the black-legged seriema (Chunga burmeisteri), the only other living member of its family. Some of these traits are discussed in the Cariamidae article.

The song has a quality described as "a cross between 'the serrated bark of a young dog and the clucking of turkeys'".[4] At the loudest part of the song, the bird has its neck bent so its head is touching its back. Both members of a pair as well as young down to the age of two weeks sing; often one member of a family starts a song just as another finishes, or two sing simultaneously. The song can be heard several kilometres away; in Emas National Park, Brazil, in 1981–1982, observers often heard four red-legged seriemas or groups singing at once.[5]

The full song consists of three sections:

  1. Repeated single notes at constant pitch (1,200 to 1,300 Hz) and duration but increasing tempo
  2. Repeated two- or three-note subphrases of slightly higher pitch with increasing tempo
  3. Subphrases of up to 10 notes, shorter ones rising in pitch and longer ones falling, two-subphrase combinations increasing in number of notes and tempo and then decreasing in tempo.


The red-legged seriema prefers grassland habitat to any other. Though it likes to inhabit lush meadows near rivers, it will not readily move into wetlands or crop fields.[6] It is usually seen singly or in pairs, but sometimes in groups up to four, apparently families. It typically walks on the ground and can easily run faster than a human in its habitat. It will flee a car on foot at speeds up to 25 km/h (15 mi/hr) before flying.[5]

In one conflict between two birds, they jumped at each other feet-first, keeping their balance by flapping.[5]

This species nests on the ground[3] or in a bush or tree up to three m above the ground. In the latter case adults jump into the nest rather than fly.[5]



  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2016). "Cariama cristata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22692205A93341300. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22692205A93341300.en. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Holyoak, David T. & Heinsohn, Robert (2003): Seriemas. In: Perrins, Christopher (ed.): Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds: 222. Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55297-777-3
  4. ^ H. Burmeister, quoted and translated by Redford & Peters (1986)
  5. ^ a b c d Redford, Kent H. & Peters, Gustav (1986). "Notes on the biology and song of the Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)" (PDF). Journal of Field Ornithology. 57 (4): 261–269.
  6. ^ Accordi, Iury Almeida & Barcellos, André (2006): Composição da avifauna em oito áreas úmidas da Bacia Hidrográfica do Lago Guaíba, Rio Grande do Sul [Bird composition and conservation in eight wetlands of the hidrographic basin of Guaíba lake, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(2): 101–115 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext Archived 2008-12-19 at the Wayback Machine.

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