Amazon Bird Bios: Northern Horned Screamer

June 25, 2013
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The Northern horned screamer is a large bird that doesn’t quite fit in with other species…in fact; there are only three species in their family Anhimidae. Northern horned screamers live in aquatic areas with lots of emergent vegetation and when walking on water lettuce or hyacinth, look like a very large goose.  Their feet, however are not webbed, but they have fairly heavy long toes that support their weight on the floating mats of vegetation. 

Often, horned screamers are heard long before they are seen as their call carries for long distances and it is somewhat like the bray of a donkey with a liquid quality. For such large birds, they fly very well and are frequently observed at the very top of trees growing out of wetland areas. The horned screamer gets its name from it vocalization and from the long white colored feathers that stick high above the birds head and leans forward well beyond the length of the beak. Once in binocular view, the bird is actually quite attractive with black feathering over much of the body, a white belly and a black and white barred fore-neck. They also always appear to be starring due to the white iris of the eye. Besides flying well from ground to tree tops, at times horned screamers can even be observed soaring, which can be very confusing as we typically don’t think of a goose-like bird gliding high in the air!

No Amazon River cruise should be complete without observing a pair of horned screamers when drifting along the blackwater lakes of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. 

 

Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.