The order Cariamiformes contains both present-day and extinct species of birds. The first specimens of birds in this order date back to 63 million years ago.
Currently, under this bird order, there is only one family: Cariamidae which contains Seriemas only.
Order Cariamiformes Characteristics
There are only two living species of Cariamiformes at present that have some unique features:
- Seriemas, the living representatives of cariamiformes, are terrestrial birds that live on the ground, and rarely fly.
- These birds are large with long legs adapted for running. They can grow as high as one meter and weigh about 1.5 kg.
- The heads of seriemas are similar to heads of hawks.
- These birds also have long necks and long tails that assist in running and balance.
- These birds are omnivorous, can feed on snakes, small mammals, insects, and plants.
- Seriemas build nests on the ground and usually lay two eggs.
- Both parents participate in building the nest and feeding the chicks.
- The chicks of seriemas can follow their parents in 20 days after hatching.
- Both species of seriemas are restricted to South America only.
- Red-legged seriema usually lives in grasslands.
- Black-legged seriema can live in trees.
- Seriemas have a sickle claw on its middle toe that can help cut up the prey.
- Seriemas peculiarly kill their prey: they drop it on the ground multiple times until it is killed and then eat it.
- The extinct species that belong to this order, such as terror birds and Bathornis were large predators with sharp beaks and legs.
- Terror birds are thought to be the apex predators in the Cenozoic era.
- Seriemas can be tamed and are used as guard species by local farmers.
Here is the list of known living and extinct Cariamiformes species:
- Red-legged seriema, Cariama cristata
- Black-legged seriema, Chunga burmeisteri
- Bathornis veredus
- Terror birds, Titanis walleri
- Angalgornis steuletti
- Strigogyps sapea
- Elaphrocnemus crex
- Qianshanornis rapax
-  – “Red Legged Seriema”. Accessed May 31, 2019. Link.
-  – “Black-legged Seriema (Chunga burmeisteri) | HBW Alive”. Accessed May 31, 2019. Link.
-  – “ITIS Standard Report Page: Cariamiformes”. Accessed May 31, 2019. Link.