Screamer, Southern

Chauna torquata

Adult length: 33 – 37 in (83 – 95 cm); adult weight: 8.8 – 9.9 lbs. (4 – 4.5 kg); wingspan: 19.6 – 22.4 in. (498 – 568 mm); appearance & coloration: Sexes similar.  Large bodied, with stout tarsi and toes, and a relatively short, “chicken-like” bill. Rear crown has a crest, usually recumbent, of elongated, pointed feathers. Head and upperparts gray. Remiges and rectrices are fuscous. Collar, composed of feathers with a velvety texture, around base of neck black; usually there is a faint white neck ring above the black. Foreneck, breast and sides pale gray, with indistinct white mottling and streaking; belly less marked, almost uniform pale gray or white. Underwing coverts white. Manus has two sharp, spike-like spurs, the more proximal of which is the longer of the two. The iris is brown or orange-brown; the orbital skin is rosy or reddish pink, and the cere is pinkish gray. Bill is a grayish brown, and tarsi are rosy.








Southeastern Peru, northern Bolivia, Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina


Tropical and sub-tropical swamps, estuaries and watersides

Life Expectancy

Up to 15 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity

Sexual Maturity



In the wild, they eat plant stems, seeds, leaves, and occasionally small animals; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted parrot and low iron pelleted softbill diet, greens, assorted fruits and vegetables, and insects.


IUCN – Least Concern


The Southern screamer is a good swimmer, having partially webbed feet, but spends most of its time on land. Although it is non-migratory, it is an excellent flier. Southern Screamers are social during the non-breeding season; they forage in flocks of up to 100 individuals. They mostly graze vegetation and very rarely dig for food. They are diurnal and roost in groups in shallow water pools. The Southern screamer establishes monogamous relationships that last its lifetime. Courtship involves loud calling by both sexes, which can be heard up to two miles away. During the courtship display there is mutual preening, and they will throw their heads back to touch their backs. The pair makes a big platform nest of reeds, straws, and other aquatic plants in an inaccessible place near water. The female lays 2 – 7 white eggs that both parents incubate for 43 to 46 days. Chicks leave the nest as soon as they hatch, and both parents care for them until they fledge at 8 to 14 weeks. Young are able to run as soon as they are hatched, but they can swim better than they can run. This helps them to avoid terrestrial predators. Screamer chicks imprint early in life. This, coupled with their unfussy diet makes them amenable to domestication. They make excellent watchdogs due to their loud screams when encountering anything new and potentially threatening.


The bony spurs on its wings are used for protection against rival screamers and other enemies. Unlike other Anseriformes, screamers molt gradually, remaining fully flighted year ‘round.

Special Interests

The screamers are a small family of birds, the Anhimidae. For a long time they were thought to be related to the Galliformes because of similar bills, but they are truly related to ducks (family Anatidae), and most closely to the magpie goose (which some DNA evidence suggests are closer to screamers than to ducks). The family is exceptional within the living birds in lacking uncinate processes of ribs. The Southern screamer (Chauna torquata), also known as the crested screamer, is the largest of three species of screamers. The other two species are the horned screamer or Anioema (Anhima cornuta) and the Northern screamer (Chauna chavaria).



This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion. The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion. For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Jacksonville Zoo History

First found on the Jacksonville Zoo’s animal inventory in 1974, it was brought back into our collection in 2010.


River Valley Aviary