Scientific Name: Cariama cristata
Sounding like a yelping dog, the red-legged seriema’s call is very unusual. The cry can be heard over a mile away and is usually produced in the early morning hours in defense of a mating pair’s territory. One member of the pair will usually start the song while the other answers in a sort of duet.
The red-legged seriema likes to sunbathe; it often appears to be dead when doing so because it lies motionless in the dirt on its side.
STATUS: The red-legged seriema is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Although humans are interfering with their habitat through agricultural and water developments, seriemas seem to be adapting to the changes.
HABITAT: The red-legged seriema lives in South America in central and eastern Brazil, eastern Bolivia and Paraguay, Uruguay, and central Argentina. The birds can be found in grassy and in lightly wooded areas. Non-migratory, they are generally terrestrial except for the fact that they usually nest or roost in a bush or tree.
DIET: Although these birds are omnivores, they prefer dining on insects, especially grasshoppers and beetles, along with small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, and frogs. They will also eat seeds, fruits, and crops grown by humans such as corn, beans, and grains.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Red-Legged Seriemas stand about three feet tall on long red legs and weigh about three pounds. Males are slightly larger than females, but otherwise the sexes look alike. Their crest, formed by permanently raised, slightly stiff feathers at the base of the bill, is their most striking feature, and they are one of the only birds with eyelashes. Their bodies are mainly gray with specks of brown while their abdomen is white. The skin surrounding their eyes is blue, and their irises are yellow. Seriemas have three very sharp, short front toes and a raised, smaller rear toe which enables them to run quickly to escape from enemies; these birds can only fly for short distances, so they run when they are in danger. When they nest in a tree, seriema parents jump to the nest instead of flying.
Look at Me!
The male’s courtship display consists of strutting before the female, stretching out his flight feathers and lowering his head to show his crest. Both sexes of this monogamous species build the nest, which takes about a month, during the breeding season of May to September. The nest is made of twigs and branches and lined with leaves and mud. Two eggs are usually laid and incubated by both parents for 25-30 days. The chicks, covered in long, light-brown feathers, are fed by the mother and father and are able to leave the nest when they are 12 to 15 days old to trail their parents on the ground. Even the chicks can emit a call similar to the adults’ and may assist the parents in defending their territory. Chicks fledge (their first flight) at about one month of age.