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Red-legged Seriema

Cariama cristata

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75 - 90cm

0.9 - 1.2m

1 - 3kg

15 - 25 yrs

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The red-legged seriema, sometimes known as the crested cariama, is one of only two living birds in the seriema family (Cariamidae), the other being the black-legged seriema (Chunga burmeisteri). They are found in South America, particularly in Brazil, where farmers often use them to guard their poultry from predators.

Least Concern

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LC

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It shares many of its characteristics with the black-legged seriema, with both possessing a long neck and tall, slender legs. The plumage of the red-legged seriema is generally brown with black markings, with a paler colouration on the head and neck and a white belly. The soft fan-shaped crest on its head is where the name “seriema” is derived.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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The song has been described as a cross between the clucking of a turkey and the serrated bark of a young dog. At the loudest part, the bird bends its neck far enough that its head touches its back, perhaps to project the sound as far as possible. Pairs will often perform a duet along with their chicks, with one family member starting just as another finishes.

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They follow grazing livestock and prey on the insects they disturb. The rest of the diet is made up of various other species such as snakes, lizards, frogs and rodents as well as a small amount of plant material (typically maize or beans.) When catching small reptiles, they will beat the prey on the ground in order to break its bones.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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They build a bulky stick nest on the ground, where two or three white, brown-spotted eggs are laid. The female does most of the incubation, which lasts just under one month. Hatchlings are downy and stay in the nest for two weeks, after which they follow very closely to their parents. They reach full maturity at the age of four to five months.

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It is found south of the Amazon, in Brazil through to Uruguay and northern Argentina. However, it seems not to venture into the coastal areas, preferring to remain inland. It tends to keep within grassland habitats; it does like lush meadows close by rivers, but will not readily move into wetlands. Despite being able to fly, it typically walks on the ground.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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The seriemas are thought to be the closest living relatives to the prehistoric “terror birds” known as the phorusrhacids, although the fossil record is poor. That said, despite being one of only two living seriemas, it has been given a rating of Least Concern by the IUCN due to its range. Currently, no threats or conservation actions have been identified.

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