Animals

Screamers

by Marcia Malory

A screamer is a bird that belongs to the family Anhimidae, which is part of the order Anseriformes.

The name "screamer" comes from these birds' loud cries. It is alleged that the cry of a screamer can be heard from almost 2 miles away.

Screamers are native to South America, where they can be found in wetlands, for example, around lakes, swamps or lagoons.

They often roost in trees.

Southern Screamer or Crested ScreamerTheir diet consists mostly of aquatic plants.

Screamers will sometimes eat small animals, including insects.

Physical Characteristics

Screamers are large birds, and can weigh as much as 9 pounds.

They have small heads, which are covered with down.

Screamers' beaks look like chickens' beaks. Ornithologists once thought that screamers belong to the order Galliformes, which includes chickens and turkeys.

However, screamers are more closely related to ducks, swans, geese and the magpie goose, which are Anseriformes. Therefore, screamers are now classified as Anseriformes.

Screamers have long legs and big feet.

Their feet, like those of the magpie goose, are only partially webbed.

Screamers have large spurs on their wings. They uses these spurs for fighting - to defend territory and to fight over mates.

There are small air sacs in between a screamer's skin and the rest of its body. Ornithologists believe that these air sacs help to keep the screamer warm.

Screamers are the only birds with ribs that lack uncinate processes.

Uncinate processes are extensions of the rib bones that help to strengthen the rib cage by making the ribs overlap.

Breeding

Screamers may be seasonally monogamous or monogamous for life.

Both male and female in a pair work together to build a nest near water.

A nest consists of a platform made of sticks, straw, reeds and other plants found in the water.

A clutch usually contains about four or five eggs.

Both parents incubate the eggs.

Screamers and Humans

Some people keep screamers as pets.

Sometimes, human beings take advantage of screamers' loud calls and sharp spurs by raising screamers with chickens. The screamers act as "watchbirds" - defending the chickens from predators.

Screamers aren't hunted very often, because they have spongy flesh which people usually find very unappetizing.

Species

There are three species of screamer:

  • The northern screamer (Chauna chavaria), also called the black-necked screamer.
  • The southern screamer (Chauna torquata), also called the crested screamer
  • The horned screamer (Anhima cornuta).

The northern screamer is in danger of extinction, mostly because of habitat destruction.