Red-Legged Seriema

(Cariama cristata)

Habitat and Distribution: Found among low trees and bushes in grasslands of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uraguay.

Size: 2-3 feet tall; 1-3 pounds; wingspan 3-4 feet

Wild Diet: Insects, reptiles, small mammals, birds, eggs, fruit, seeds, grains, and vegetable matter

Reproduction: Red-legged seriemas are monogamous and breed during the rainy season (May-September). A male attracts a mate by strutting past a female with his head down and flight feathers stretched out to one side. Together, they construct a nest of twigs and sticks close to the ground. The female lays two eggs and both parents incubate them for about 4 weeks. Usually, only one of the two chicks survives to fledging.

Behavior: Red-legged seriemas are diurnal and forage in pairs or in small groups comprised of parents and offspring. Although they spend most of their time on the ground, they may roost in bushes or low trees.  They are seldom seen, but often heard; their call sounds similar to a yelping puppy and can be heard miles away. Mated pairs sing in duets to declare their territory, and other vocalizations are heard when a red-legged seriema is upset, eating, courting, or resting.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Red-legged seriemas inhabit a large range and adapt well to human activities, although habitat loss is a threat to the species. Some scientists suspect that their numbers are overestimated due to their loud and far-reaching calls.

Did you know?

  • Red-legged seriemas are poor fliers but fantastic runners, reaching speeds over 40 mph!
  • Farmers sometimes house them with chickens to kill snakes and to act as “guard dogs” because they call out when strangers or predators approach.
  • Seriemas (family Cariamidae) are the only remaining members of a group of 3-10 foot tall terrestrial birds that lived in South America over 25 million years ago.