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Cariama cristata

Cariama cristata, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Gruiformes
Familia: Cariamidae
Genus: Cariama
Species: Cariama cristata


Cariama cristata Linnaeus, 1766


* Linnaeus 1766. Syst.Nat.ed.12 p.232

Vernacular names
Dansk: Rødbenet seriema
English: Red-legged Seriema, Crested Cariama
Español: Chuña patas rojas
Français: Cariama huppé
Magyar: Vöröslábú kígyászdaru
日本語: アカノガンモドキ
Polski: Kariama czerwononoga
Suomi: Töyhtökäärmekurki
Türkçe: Tepelikli kariyama


The Red-legged Seriema or Crested Cariama (Cariama cristata) 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 Cariamae (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]

It is 75 to 90 cm (30 to 36 in) long, 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.[2]

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'"[3]. 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.[4]

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[5]. 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.[4]

In one conflict between two birds, they jumped at each other feet-first, keeping their balance by flapping.[4]

This species nests on the ground[2] or in a bush or tree up to 3 m above the ground. In the latter case adults jump into the nest rather than fly[4].


1. ^ BLI (2008), Bencke (2007)
2. ^ a b Holyoak & Heinsohn (2003)
3. ^ H. Burmeister, quoted and translated by Redford & Peters (1986)
4. ^ a b c d Redford & Peters (1986)
5. ^ Accordi & Barcellos (2006)


* 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
* BirdLife International (BLI) (2008). Cariama cristata. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 18 November 2008.
* Holyoak, David T. & Heinsohn, Robert (2003): Seriemas. In: Perrins, Christopher (ed.): Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds: 222. Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55297-777-3
* Redford, Kent H. & Peters, Gustav (1986): Notes on the biology and song of the Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata). Journal of Field Ornithology 57(4): 261-269. DjVu fulltext PDF fulltext

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