Palamedea cristata Linnaeus, 1766, Brazil.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Crested seriema; French: Cariama huppй; German: RotfuЯseriema; Spanish: cariama, siriema, Chuсa Pattiroja.
Red legs and bill, yellow iris surrounded by pale blue bare skin, and a black subterminal bar on the white-tipped tail. Plumage of the neck and underparts is soft and somewhat loose. Long feathers on the hindneck form the nuchal crest, whereas the distinctive frontal crest is formed by permanently raised, stiffened feathers, 3–4 in (7–10 cm) in length, arising from the base of the bill. Sexes similar, but males slightly larger. Juveniles similar, but the bill and legs are blackish, and the markings of the head, neck, and back are more evident.
More widespread. Inhabits large parts of central and eastern Brazil, Paraguay, eastern and southeastern Bolivia, Uruguay and northeastern Argentina. Elevations up to 6,600 ft (2,000 m).
Primarily savanna-like areas; also open scrub and woodland edges.
Generally nonmigratory, but temperature-related movement recorded. Rarely fly and spend most of the time on the ground, except for roosting in low trees or bushes. The birds are fast on the ground and can outrun predators. Considered diurnal. Dust bathing is practiced, as well as sunbathing, during which birds of this species lie on their sides, sometimes appearing as if dead. Call is similar to a yelping puppy and can be heard several miles away. Call is usually given in the morning and between pairs, often as a duet between the two birds, to define territory. At the beginning of the call, the head is held straight, but toward the end, the neck is held back so the head nearly touches the bird’s back.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Omnivorous diet including small mammals, insects, snakes, worms, frogs, birds, lizards, snails, fruit, and vegetable matter. May eat eggs or chicks of other species. Slams large prey on rocks to pulverize to make it easier to swallow. The arrangement of their toes prevents them from catching prey with their feet. Forage in small groups or pairs.
Nests are in bushes or low trees from ground level to 10 ft (3 m) up in a tree; sticks are used for building material with mud and leaves for the lining. Both sexes build the nest, which generally takes a month. The male’s courtship display involves showing off flight feathers by stretching them to one side and strutting before the female with head down and crest raised. Seriemas are considered monogamous. Clutches usually consist of two white eggs with irregular brown streaks. Incubation lasts for 25–28 days with both parents involved. Chicks fledge in a month.
Not threatened, though uncommon in far southern parts of Brazil; rare and possibly vanishing in Uruguay. A population in northeast Argentina appears to be pressured by hunting and destruction of habitat. Has begun to colonize deforested, grassy areas of Amazonian Brazil.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Occasionally offered for sale by illegal traders in parts of Brazil. Farmers often use them as watchdogs for their domestic fowl because of their call.
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