Horned Screamer Fact File
Wild 8-10 years
Captive 8-10 years
The horned screamer is a large bid from South America named for its loud ‘u-who’ call and a thin, white appendage which sticks out from the top of the head.
They are primarily herbivores which forage for plant matter near the freshwater areas they call home.
Year round a pair will maintain a home range which they defend fiercely against other pairs entering it. Each year they work together to raise a brood of chicks which can forage immediately from birth.
Learn more about these beautiful birds by reading on.
Across their back the horned screamer is colored dark gray or black with white feathers on the underside. The neck features a scaled pattern of black and white feathers.
Their name comes from the single white appendage which sticks out on top of the head. It measures up to 10cm (4in) long.
They have a narrow, short bill which is dark in color with a slight hook in it. Their long legs end with partly, webbed feet which are colored grey. They eyes are bright red.
On the end of each wing is a sharp claw.
Horned screamers are the largest member of the screamer family which includes two other species.
An adult will measure between 71 and 92cm(28 and 36.2in). They have an average weight of 2 to 3kg(4.5 to 6.5lbs). They have a wingspan of up to 170cm (67in) across.
Horned screamers are herbivores. They feed on plant matter including leaves, stems, flowers and the roots of aquatic vegetation.
Juveniles will feed on invertebrates and adults also consume small amounts of these while feeding on vegetation.
These birds primarily feed on land rather than in the water. Most of their feeding takes place during the day.
South America is the native home of the horned screamer. Here they can be found in the following countries – Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname and Venezuela.
The species is believed to have gone extinct in Trinidad and Tobago.
They make their homes in forest and grassland. Here they live along freshwater areas such as marshes and rivers.
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Pairs form for life and defend their territory year round. Pairs strengthen their bond by performing a duet call or preening one another. Males may also circle around females with their dorsal feathers erect.
They are highly territorial and will use a loud call to mark the boundaries for other pairs.
Breeding can occur year round with a peak in spring and summer. It mainly occurs on the ground.
Both members of the pair participate in building the nest. This is formed from a large pile of plant material such as weeds, reeds and sticks. Debris may also be used to form it. It may be fixed to brush in the water or placed on dry ground close to the water’s edge.
A female will deposit between 4 and 6 eggs on to the ground. These eggs are olive in color. Both parents help to incubate the eggs for 45 to 47 days. At hatching the chicks have grayish-yellow down across their body.
As soon as they hatch the chicks can move around with the adults and follow them. Parents will offer them food for 60 to 75 days to encourage feeding.
Independence is reached at 1 year old.
As is implied by their name screamer the horned screamer is a loud bird which makes a honking sound or loud ‘u-who’ call. They produce their call while flying and they will call together with others at their roost.
At night they mainly roost in trees which provide protection though they may roost in shallow water.
Most of their time is spent on the ground where they will forage for food.
They will engage in fights using the spurs on the wing to try and harm the opponent. Pursuits may also occur in the air.
Most of their flights are short. When in flight the neck is outstretched.
Small groups may form with between 5 and 10 members.
Predators and Threats
Humans are the only recorded predator of these birds.
When threatened they will fly up in to a tree while emitting a loud call.
Native people within their range refer to this species as ‘Mohooka.’
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Félix Uribe, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Bill Bouton from San Luis Obispo, CA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Hector Bottai, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Ebird.org. 2021. Horned Screamer – eBird. [online] Available at: <https://ebird.org/species/horscr1> [Accessed 2 June 2021].
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