Southern Screamer - Chauna torquata

Length 2.3-3.1 ft (71.1-94.0 cm)
Wingspan 5.8 ft (175.3 cm)
Clutch Size 2-7
Chicks at birth Precocial
IUCN Conservation Status Least Concern

The Southern Screamer is one of the three species of Screamers. All Screamers inhabit South America and the Southern Screamer or Crested Screamer is the most abundant.

Southern Screamers are large birds with mostly gray bodies. They have two rings around their neck. One is made up of black feathers and the second is bare white skin. Red skin surrounds their eyes and bill which is short, stubby and hooked. The roof of their mouths (see picture below) have spiny projections. There is no membrane between the nostrils so in a side view you can see right through.

Their legs are sturdy and are pinkish like their feet. The toes have partial webbing which helps them to be good swimmers though they prefer walking. Two sharp bone spurs (2" long) protrude from the forward edges of each wing. These spurs are used by males to fight for females and both sexes use them to protect their territory. They can break off but will grow back.

Other interesting information about these birds is that they the feathers are evenly distributed. Most bird feathers are grouped in tracks. This is not true with screamers.

The female is slightly smaller than the male. Juveniles have a slightly duller plumage.

(For more information)

Diet: Southern Screamers eat aquatic plants, seeds, leaves, stems, crops, berries and sometimes insects and small animals. The spiny projections in their mouth probably help to crush, tear, and break open the vegetation.

Courtship: The courtship ritual includes duets and mutual preening. These duets are loud enough to be heard two miles away. Pair bonds are known to last several seasons and may be life-long.

Nesting: Nests are large platforms made of reeds, sticks, aquatic plants that are made on the ground close to shallow water. Both sexes defend the nest against intruders. The nest may be reused in successive years. The female lays 2-7 white or beige colored eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs. The chicks are precocial at birth and leave the nest soon after hatching. The parents will protect and feed them until they are fully independent (12-14 weeks).

Habitat and Range: Southern Screamers are found in the central part of South America including Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. They prefer wetlands such as flooded fields, meadows, marshes, lakes and lagoon.

Vocalization: Besides them courtship calls, they will make loud, unmelodious calls while flying.

Plumage/Molt Southern Screamers do not have an alternate or breeding plumage. They also do not molt all their feathers at the same time like other members of the Anseriformers family.

Migration: They are non-migratory but are nomadic traveling in large flocks in search of food and water (many hundreds or thousands).

Tongue/feet: Pinkish red legs and feet.


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