Cariamidae – Seriemas

The seriemas are large, long-legged territorial birds

It consists of a small but fascinating group of birds known as seriemas. Found predominantly in South America, particularly in the grasslands and open woodlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay, these birds exhibit a blend of traits that make them unique among modern birds.

The family comprises two existing species: the red-legged seriema and the black-legged seriema. The red-legged seriema is the more widely distributed of the two, with its range extending into Brazil and Uruguay, while the black-legged seriema is found more centrally within South America.

Seriemas are known for their long legs and necks, which give them a stately appearance as they stride across the grasslands. They are predominantly terrestrial birds that are more comfortable running than flying. While they have the capability to fly, they do so only reluctantly and over short distances. Their preference for running is a trait that has been likened to the behavior of flightless birds, though seriemas are not classified as such.

Their diet is varied and includes insects, small reptiles, amphibians, and even small mammals. Seriemas are opportunistic feeders and have been observed using their strong legs and sharp beaks to kill prey. Their presence in cattle fields is beneficial to farmers, as seriemas feed on pests that might otherwise affect livestock.

Despite their relatively common status within their range, there is much that remains to be understood about seriema behavior, particularly regarding their breeding habits. What is known is that they build their nests on the ground or low in trees and bushes, and both parents are involved in rearing the chicks.

The calls of seriemas are distinctive and can carry for considerable distances. These vocalizations are used for communication between individuals, especially during the breeding season, and contribute to the characteristic soundscape of their habitats.