Taxonomy[ edit ] The red-legged seriema was described in by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the twelfth edition of his Systema Naturae. He coined the binomial name Palamedea cristata. 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.
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They forage on foot and run from danger rather than fly though they can fly for short distances, and they roost in trees. They have long legs, necks, and tails, but only short wings, reflecting their way of life. They are among the largest ground-dwelling birds endemic of the Neotropics only behind rheas. They give loud, yelping calls and are often heard before they are seen. They have sharp claws, with an extensible and very curved second toe claw. The frontal crest of the red-legged seriema Cariama cristata is unique among Neotropical birds.
The seriemas have short wings and rarely take flight. Cariama cristata the Pantanal , Brazil Behaviour and ecology[ edit ] Ecologically , the seriema is the South American counterpart of the African secretary bird. They feed on insects , snakes , lizards , frogs , young birds , and rodents , with small amounts of plant food including maize and beans. They often associate with grazing livestock , probably to take insects the animals disturb. When seriemas catch small reptiles , they beat the prey on the ground Redford and Peters or throw it at a hard surface to break resistance and also the bones.
If the prey is too large to swallow whole, it will be ripped into smaller pieces with a sickle claw by holding the prey in the beak and tearing it apart with the claw. They walk in pairs or small groups. Although perfectly capable of flying, they prefer to spend most of their time on land.
They only take flight when necessary, so as to escape a predator. Overnight they take shelter in the treetops, where they also build their nests. Breeding[ edit ] The breeding biology of the seriemas is poorly known, and much of what is known comes only from the red-legged seriemas.
Pairs appear to be territorial and avoid others of their species while breeding, and fights between rivals have been observed.
These fights involved kicking rivals, can go on for long periods of time, and involve much calling by the involved birds. The placement of the nest is so that the adults can reach the nest by foot rather than flying, through hops and the occasional flutter. Both sexes are involved in building the nest. They lay two or three white or buff eggs sparsely spotted with brown and purple. The female does most of the incubation, which lasts from 24 to 30 days. Hatchlings are downy but stay in the nest for about two weeks; after which they leave the nest and follow both parents.
They reach full maturity at the age of four to five months. It is unknown when fledged chicks reach sexual maturity. The red-legged seriema , or crested cariama Cariama cristata is found from eastern Brazil , to central Argentina. The black-legged seriema Chunga burmeisteri is found in northwest Argentina and Paraguay. It nests in trees. Salimia and Idiornis have also been suggested to be seriemas,  as has the massive predatory Paracrax from the Oligocene of North America,  though their status remains uncertain.
Science — Archived from the original PDF on Retrieved Elliott, A. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions. Seriemas Cariamidae. In: del Hoyo, J. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.