Encyclopedia > Seriema

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Cariamidae
Genera and species
Cariama cristata
Chunga burmeisteri

The Seriemas are a small and ancient family of tropical South American birds, Cariamidae related to the rails and bustards.

They are terrestrial birds which run rather than fly. They have long legs, necks and tails, but only short wings, reflecting their way of life. They are brownish birds with short bills and erectile crests, found on fairly dry open grasslands.

They feed on insects, snakes and lizards. There are two species.

  • Red-legged seriema, or Crested Cariama, Cariama cristata. This is found from eastern Brazil, to central Argentina. It nests on the ground, laying two eggs.
  • Black-legged seriema, Chunga burmeisteri. This is found in northwest Argentina and Paraguay. It nests in a tree, laying two eggs.

The two extant species of seriema are thought to be the only descendants of a group of large carnivorous Pleistocene birds, the phorusrhacoids, which are known from fossils.

The seriemas have an extensible second claw that they can lift from the ground. Although this resembles the dinosaurian sickle claw, it is not curved enough to be a real weapon.

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