Red-Legged Seriema Fact File

Cariama cristata

Credit: Public Domain








Wild 20-30 years

Captive 20-30 years



Birds, Small Mammals

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The red-legged seriema is named for the long red legs which they use as their primary method to move around the forest. They rarely fly.

This species is most notable for the violent method of killing its prey. They will capture birds, rodents or reptiles including venomous snakes and then bash it against rocks to kill it and make it easier to eat.

In some areas they are kept among flocks of chickens to protect them against snakes.

They are threatened through capture for food and pets.

Read on to learn more about these brave birds.


What does the red-legged seriema look like?

The red-legged seriema stands atop a pair of long, red legs.

Across the rest of the body they have finely barred plumage which is colored brown. Around the neck, breast and underside these are rather loose. At the base of the bill is a crest of feathers which are permanently raised. On the upperside the feathers are colored whitish turning to grey on the head and neck.

Their beak is broad and hooked. It is colored red. They are one of the few birds which have a set of eyelashes. The eye is colored yellow and surrounded by a patch of blue skin.

An average red-legged seriema will measure 75 to 90cm (29.5 to 35.5in) long and weigh 1.5kg (3.25lbs). The male and female are similar in appearance and size.

They are the second largest ground dwelling birds in the Neotropics after the rhea.


What does the red-legged seriema eat?

The red-legged seriema is a carnivore. They will feed on a range of animal prey including birds, reptiles such as lizards and snakes and small mammals such as rodents.

Due to their ability to kill snakes they may be kept in some areas of their range among flocks of chickens to help protect them.

They have shown the ability to consume venomous prey including snakes.

Before consuming prey it is caught and banged against rocks which will help to kill it and break its bones making it easier to eat.

Red-Legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)

Credit: Public Domain


Where can you find the red-legged seriema?

South America is the native home of the red-legged seriema. Here they can be found in the following countries - Argentina; Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.


What kind of environment does the red-legged seriema live in?

The red-legged seriema is found in areas of forest and savanna. They show a preference for open areas of habitat.

These animals regularly visit areas of burnt habitat where prey is easy to find.

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How does the red-legged seriema produce its young?

Breeding takes place during the rainy season which varies in its occurrence across its range.

At the beginning of the breeding season the males will display for the females by extending their wing feathers and strutting in front of her. If two males are targeting the same female they will engage in fights.

Once they establish a partnership the pair will duet with one another.

Their nest is built in low branches of a tree. It is formed from branches and then lined with mud and leaves. Adults build it low in the trees so they can reach it using short hops.

In to the nest the pair will deposit two eggs at a time which are colored white with brown spots. The female completes the incubation which lasts 27-28 days. At hatching the young are covered by long brown feathers.

Fledging takes place between 12 and 15 days old.

Sexual maturity is reached between four and five months old.


What does the red-legged seriema do with its day?

A range of vocalizations are produced by the red-legged seriema including a loud yelp which includes various changes in pitch.

These calls can carry over long distances and are used by males to defend their territory. During these displays the male will fling his head back far.

In short bursts they can reach speeds of up to 40km/h (25mph).

This bird rarely flies. They will use rapid wing beats followed by glides to carry them over short distances.

Red-Legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)

Credit: Public Domain

Red-Legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the red-legged seriema?

When threatened by a predator they will lie down and hope their coloration provides effective camouflage.

These animals are considered common with a stable population across their range.

Some are captured for use in the pet trade or as food. They may also be affected in small amounts by habitat loss.

In most areas this species has benefited from habitat loss as it creates more of their preferred habitat types.

Quick facts

This species was first described for modern science by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766.

Their species name, cristata, is taken from the Latin for "crested" or "tufted."


Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

BirdLife International. 2016. Cariama cristataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22692205A93341300. Accessed on 30 December 2021.

Bouglouan, N., 2021. Red-legged Seriema. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021].

Brevard Zoo. 2021. Red-Legged Seriema. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021].

Harewood House. 2021. Red-Legged Seriema. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021].

Blair Drummond Safari Park. 2021. Red-legged seriema - Blair Drummond Safari Park. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021].

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (LA Zoo). 2021. Red-Legged Seriema - Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (LA Zoo). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021]. 2021. Red-legged Seriema | The Peregrine Fund. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 December 2021].

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