Northern Screamer

Chauna Chavaria

Last updated: September 8, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit CC BY-SA 2.0.

They are closely related to magpie geese

Northern Screamer Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Anseriformes
Family
Anhimidae
Genus
Chauna
Scientific Name
Chauna Chavaria

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Northern Screamer Conservation Status

Northern Screamer Locations

Northern Screamer Locations

Northern Screamer Facts

Prey
This species eats aquatic vegetation like roots, stems, grasses, and seeds.
Main Prey
Plant matter
Name Of Young
Hatchlings or chicks
Group Behavior
  • Group
  • Pair
Fun Fact
They are closely related to magpie geese
Estimated Population Size
1,500 to 7,000
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss and overhunting
Most Distinctive Feature
Red eyering
Distinctive Feature
Head tufts and hooked bills
Incubation Period
42 to 44 days
Age Of Independence
12 to 14 weeks
Age Of Fledgling
Immediately after hatching
Habitat
Wetlands in lowland tropical forests
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Type
Bird
Common Name
Northern screamer
Special Features
Partially webbed feet and sharp wing spurs
Number Of Species
2
Location
Colombia and Venezuela
Nesting Location
Floating vegetation in shallow water or on the ground near the water's edge

Northern Screamer Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
15 to 35 years
Length
30 to 36 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
More than two years

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View all of the Northern Screamer images!



The northern screamer is attracted to seasonally flooded plains.

The northern screamer, also known as the black-necked screamer, is a water bird endemic to small South American regions. Its limited range puts it at risk for habitat loss and pollution, and spotting one of these birds is a rare treat. They are sturdy birds with distinctive coloring who form pair bonds and possibly mate for life. Find out everything there is to know about this uncommon screamer, including where you can find them and how to identify them.

5 Amazing Northern Screamer Facts

  • The northern screamer inhabits the wetlands of Colombia and Venezuela.
  • They are closely related to magpie geese.
  • They are relatively sedentary, and you often find them perched on the tops of trees.
  • These birds are very vocal, but their calls are loud and unharmonious.
  • Northern screamers are “near threatened” due to their continuing habitat loss.

Where to Find the Northern Screamer

The northern screamer has a relatively small range, only inhabiting Northern Colombia and Northwestern Venezuela. You can find them in wetlands in lowland tropical forests, such as marshes, lagoons, swamps, well-vegetated lakes, and river banks. These birds are also attracted to flooded plains during the rainy season. To find them, listen for their loud, unharmonious calls and look to the tops of trees or near the water where they graze.

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Northern Screamer Nest

Both parents assist in building their nest, which is typically floating vegetation anchored among marsh vegetation in shallow water. They may also place it on the dry ground next to the water. Their pair constructs it by finding debris and vegetation around the nesting site, such as sticks, reeds, and weeds. When completed, the nest resembles a loosely constructed circular shape.

Scientific Name

The northern screamer (Chauna Chavarria) is in the Anseriformes order, which encompasses 180 species of waterfowl. And its family, Anhimidae, represents the screamers, three South American bird species. The Chauna genus comprises the northern and southern screamers in South America’s wetlands. 

Size, Appearance, and Behavior

The northern screamer is a large, solid bird closely related to magpie geese. This stout bird grows between 30 and 36 inches, but we don’t know its weight or wingspan. Their bodies are grayish-black with white streaks, and their crown and neck are black with a broad white stripe across their chin. Its legs and feet are reddish-pink, and it has a distinctive red eye ring. They have small, hooked bills, strong legs, and partially webbed feet. They also have two sharp wing spurs, which they use to deter predators (although their predators are unknown). Females are smaller than males but feature similar plumage. While they don’t technically scream, northern screamers make low, throaty sounds that resemble barking.

These birds are diurnal and like to spend their days perching on tree tops and loudly proclaiming their territory. This species forms pair bonds and may mate for life. Mates make pair calls to establish their bond and will perform other courtship displays like walking side by side, making low, course sounds, and preening. Pairs stay together during the breeding season, but after, they may form small groups. This species is mainly terrestrial but are good fliers and can quickly get to the tree tops.

Pair of northern screamers in a forest
Northern screamers are grayish-black with white streaks. They have broad black and white bands on their necks and heads and a red beak and eye ring.

CC BY-SA 2.0. – License

Diet

The northern screamer eats a vegetarian diet, feeding almost exclusively on plant matter.

What Does the Northern Screamer Eat?

This species eats aquatic vegetation like roots, stems, grasses, and seeds. They will occasionally eat insects, but they are not a regular part of their diet. The northern screamer looks for food by grazing or digging with its bill. 

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

According to the IUCN, the northern screamer is a “near threatened” species. In fact, it almost meets the criterion for “threatened” status. It has a relatively small population that continues to decline at a steady pace. They have experienced a loss of habitat due to wetland draining, pipeline and road construction, urbanization, and mangrove cutting. This species is also vulnerable to hunting, egg collecting, domestic and industrial pollution, and sewage.

Reproduction, Young, and Molting

The northern screamer can breed in its environment year-round, but the peak breeding season occurs in October and November. Breeding pairs are solitary and build their nest together. Females lay three to five yellowish-white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating for 42 to 44 days. Their young are born in an advanced state and leave the nest immediately after hatching, where they follow after their parents. They stay predominately in the water until they can fly and fledge within eight to ten weeks after hatching. This species is fully independent at 12 to 14 weeks. These birds have long lifespans and can live between 15 and 35 years.

Population

The IUCN estimates the northern screamer population to be between 1,500 and 7,000 mature individuals. This species doesn’t experience any extreme fluctuations or fragmentations in its numbers, but its population is decreasing. They are going through a slow and steady decline due to habitat loss, egg collecting, and hunting.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

Northern Screamer FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why are screamer birds called screamers?

While they don’t technically scream, northern screamers make low, throaty sounds that resemble barking.

Where do screamers live?

The northern screamer has a relatively small range, only inhabiting Northern Colombia and Northwestern Venezuela. You can find them in wetlands in lowland tropical forests, such as marshes, lagoons, swamps, well-vegetated lakes, and river banks.

Where do northern screamers nest?

They make nests from floating vegetation anchored among marsh vegetation in shallow water.

How big is a northern screamer?

The northern screamer is a large, solid bird closely related to magpie geese. This stout bird grows between 30 and 36 inches, but we don’t know its weight or wingspan.

What do northern screamers eat?

This species eats aquatic vegetation like roots, stems, grasses, and seeds. They will occasionally eat insects, but it is not a regular part of their diet.

Is the northern screamer endangered?

According to the IUCN, the northern screamer is a “near threatened” species. In fact, it almost meets the criterion for “threatened” status. They are losing their habitat and are vulnerable to hunting, egg collecting, domestic and industrial pollution, and sewage.

How many eggs does the northern screamer lay?

Females lay three to five yellowish-white eggs, and both parents take turns incubating for 42 to 44 days.

Sources
  1. IUCN Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22679726/92826428
  2. Oiseaux-Birds (1970)  https://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-northern-screamer.html

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