Mystery Bird: Horned Screamer, Anhima cornuta

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[Mystery bird] Horned Screamer, Anhima cornuta, photographed in Brazil along the Rio Negro, 3 degrees, 5 min S and 60 degrees, 26 minutes W. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Dave Rintoul, 2010 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Today's Mystery Bird is the only species in its genus and, along with two other species in a "sister" genus, is placed into a peculiar taxonomic family. Can you tell me what family these birds are placed into and tell me why this is just really peculiar?

The Horned Screamer, Anhima cornuta, is a member of a small family of birds, the Anhimidae, which are found in the wetlands of tropical South America. There are three screamer species, the other two being the Southern Screamer and the Northern Screamer in the genus Chauna. They are related to the ducks, geese and swans, which are in the family Anatidae, but their bills look more like those of game birds.

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Wow, what a gorgeous picture!

I'm more baffled than usual, even.

Is that the beak so big and pointed downwards?

Is there some sort of little crest feather sticking up from the head or is that a twig from the background?

I started out wanting this to be some big raptor, a vulture of some sort, but I'm thinking not now. For one thing, the vulture pictures I looked at seem to have either a lot more white or not as much. (But the way of holding the wings, with just the tip upturned, looks like pictures I've seen of King Vultures.) And then the big old beak just doesn't work for me.

I'm looking forward to a better birder's identification!

Hi Bardiac, The "twig" is a crest, if you look closely you will also see a "frosted" look to the head and white shoulder patches. The only clue I can give is, Boy bands have a lot of girls doing this at concerts.
I can't explain the large black "bill" and I think this may be vegetation the bird is carrying.

When I first saw the large "bill" I was thinking of Jabiru, but Grrl's clue of only three birds in the genus put me on the right lines.

Adrian wrote: The only clue I can give is, Boy bands have a lot of girls doing this at concerts.
So that's where the term "horny screamer" came from!;-)

By Ian Paulsen (not verified) on 12 Jun 2010 #permalink

ROFL Ian, I wish I'd thought of that!!

I think the big "bill" is actually simply dark coloration on the breast -- this bird is only white down near the legs.

Yes Paul, you are right, it is the breast. I couldn't see the white as it blends with the foliage.

Psweet (Paul?), good call. I saw it only after you pointed it out. But I'm not closer to a good id.

Hi Bardiac, Ian Paulsen has -nearly- spelt it out for you.

They are called "Jamugas" in Colombia. Ranch I visited had a pet one.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 14 Jun 2010 #permalink