Cariamiformes (or Cariamae) is an order of primarily flightless birds that has existed for over 60 million years. The group includes the family Cariamidae (seriemas) and the extinct families Phorusrhacidae, Bathornithidae, Idiornithidae and Ameghinornithidae. Though traditionally considered as a suborder of Gruiformes, both morphological and genetic studies[3] show that they belong to a separate group of birds, Australaves, whose other living members are Falconidae, Psittaciformes and Passeriformes.[4]

This proposal has been confirmed by a 2014 study of whole genomes of 48 representative bird species.[5] This analysis shows that the Cariamiformes are basal among extant Australaves, while falcons are next most basal; in combination with the fact that the two most basal branches of Afroaves (New World vultures plus Accipitriformes, and owls) are also predatory, it is inferred that the common ancestor of 'core landbirds' (Telluraves) was an apex predator.[5] However, some researchers like Darren Naish feel that this assessment is biased towards the more well known, predatory representatives of the clade,[6] and indeed at least one form, Strigogyps, appears to have been herbivorous.[7]

The earliest known fossil belonging to this group is an isolated femur from the Cape Lamb Member of the Lopez de Bertodano Formation, Vega Island, Antarctica. This specimen, which dates to the late Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, is indistinguishable from the femurs of modern seriemas, and belonged to a large bird about 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall. Because of its age and geographic location, this unnamed species may have been close to the ancestry of both cariamids and phorusrhacids.[8]

Temporal range:
Late Cretaceous - Holocene, 66–0 Ma
Cariama cristata
Red-legged seriema, Cariama cristata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Australaves
Order: Cariamiformes
Fürbringer, 1888



  1. ^ Mayr, G. 2005. "Old World phorusrhacids" (Aves, Phorusrhacidae): a new look at Strigogyps ("Aenigmavis") sapea (Peters 1987). PaleoBios
  2. ^ Alvarenga, H., Chiappe, L. & Bertelli, S. 2011. Phorusrhacids: the terror birds. In Dyke, G. & Kaiser, G. (eds) Living Dinosaurs: the Evolutionary History of Modern Birds. John Wiley & Sons (Chichester, UK), pp. 187-208.
  3. ^ Hackett, Shannon J.; et al. (2008-06-27). "A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History". Science. 320 (5884): 1763–1768. doi:10.1126/science.1157704. PMID 18583609. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  4. ^ "Darren Naish: Tetrapod Zoology". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b Jarvis, E. D.; Mirarab, S.; Aberer, A. J.; Li, B.; Houde, P.; Li, C.; Ho, S. Y. W.; Faircloth, B. C.; Nabholz, B.; Howard, J. T.; Suh, A.; Weber, C. C.; Da Fonseca, R. R.; Li, J.; Zhang, F.; Li, H.; Zhou, L.; Narula, N.; Liu, L.; Ganapathy, G.; Boussau, B.; Bayzid, M. S.; Zavidovych, V.; Subramanian, S.; Gabaldon, T.; Capella-Gutierrez, S.; Huerta-Cepas, J.; Rekepalli, B.; Munch, K.; et al. (2014). "Whole-genome analyses resolve early branches in the tree of life of modern birds" (PDF). Science. 346 (6215): 1320–1331. doi:10.1126/science.1253451. PMC 4405904. PMID 25504713.
  6. ^ Naish, Darren. "Bird behaviour, the 'deep time' perspective". Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  7. ^ Gerald Mayr, Exceptionally preserved plant parenchyma in the digestive tract indicates a herbivorous diet in the Middle Eocene bird Strigogyps sapea (Ameghinornithidae)
  8. ^ Case, J.; Reguero, M.; Martin, J.; Cordes-Person, A. (2006). "A cursorial bird from the Maastrictian of Antarctica". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 26 (3): 48A.

Australaves is a recently defined clade of birds, consisting of the Eufalconimorphae (passerines, parrots and falcons) as well as the Cariamiformes (including seriemas and the extinct "terror birds"). They appear to be the sister group of Afroaves. As in the case of Afroaves, the most basal clades have predatory extant members, suggesting this was the ancestral lifestyle; however, some researchers like Darren Naish are skeptical of this assessment, since some extinct representatives such as the herbivorous Strigogyps lead other lifestyles. Basal parrots and falcons are at any rate vaguely crow-like and probably omnivorous.

Cladogram of Telluraves relationships based on Prum, R.O. et al. (2015).


Bathornis ("tall bird") is an extinct lineage of birds related to modern day seriemas, that lived in North America about 37–20 million years ago. Like the closely related and also extinct phorusrhacids, it was a flightless predator, occupying predatory niches in environments classically considered to be dominated by mammals. It was a highly diverse and successful genus, spanning a large number of species that occurred from the Priabonian Eocene to the Burdigalian Miocene epochs.


Bathornithidae is an extinct family of birds from the Eocene to Miocene of North America. Part of Cariamiformes, they are related to the still extant seriemas and the also extinct Phorusrhacidae. They were likely similar in habits, being terrestrial, long-legged predators, some of which attained massive sizes.

It has been suggested that most, if not all, North American Paleogene cariamiforme fossils are part of this group. Storrs Olson also referred the European Elaphrocnemus to this clade, though it has since been rejected. Conversely, some analysis have instead recovered them as a polyphyletic group, with Bathornis and kin being sister taxa to phorusrhacids while Paracrax is rendered closer to modern seriemas, though this assessment is heavily debated.The most recent consensus is that Bathornithidae is relegated exclusively to Bathornis/Neocathartes, as a clade of Cariamiformes outside of a clade including seriemas and phorusrhacids, as well as a possible European specimen. Paracrax and Eutreptornis are understood to be odd taxa whose cariamiform affinities are not fully resolved.


The bluebirds are a group of medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the order of Passerines in the genus Sialia of the thrush family (Turdidae). Bluebirds are one of the few thrush genera in the Americas. They have blue, or blue and rose beige, plumage. Female birds are less brightly colored than males, although color patterns are similar and there is no noticeable difference in size between the two sexes.


Elaphrocnemus is a genus of extinct bird from the Eocene and Oligocene periods of Europe. Part of Cariamiformes, its closest living relatives are seriemas, though it differs significantly from them, being a better flyer.


The Gruiformes are an order containing a considerable number of living and extinct bird families, with a widespread geographical diversity. Gruiform means "crane-like".

Traditionally, a number of wading and terrestrial bird families that did not seem to belong to any other order were classified together as Gruiformes. These include 14 species of large cranes, about 145 species of smaller crakes and rails, as well as a variety of families comprising one to three species, such as the Heliornithidae, the limpkin, or the trumpeters.

Other birds have been placed in this order more out of necessity to place them somewhere; this has caused the expanded Gruiformes to lack distinctive apomorphies. Recent studies indicate that these "odd Gruiformes" are if at all only loosely related to the cranes, rails, and relatives ("core Gruiformes").


Idiornithidae is an extinct family of Cariamiformes. Fossils of these birds were found mainly in the phosphorus layers of Quercy in south-western France. Other specimens have been found throughout Germany as well.

List of bird genera

List of bird genera concerns the chordata class of aves or birds, characterised by feathers, a beak with no teeth, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, and a high metabolic rate.

List of birds

This page lists living orders and families of birds. The links below should then lead to family accounts and hence to individual species.

The passerines (perching birds) alone account for well over 5000 species. In total there are about 10,000 species of birds described worldwide, though one estimate of the real number places it at almost twice that.

Taxonomy is very fluid in the age of DNA analysis, so comments are made where appropriate, and all numbers are approximate. In particular see Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy for a very different classification.

Near passerine

Near passerine or higher land-bird assemblage are terms of traditional, pre-cladistic taxonomy that have often been given to tree-dwelling birds or those most often believed to be related to the true passerines (order Passeriformes) due to ecological similarities; the group corresponds to some extent with the Anomalogonatae of Alfred Henry Garrod.


Neoaves is a clade that consists of all modern birds (Neornithes or Aves) with the exception of Paleognathae (ratites and kin) and Galloanserae (ducks, chickens and kin). Almost 95% of the roughly 10,000 known species of modern birds belong to the Neoaves.

The early diversification of the various neoavian groups occurred very rapidly around the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, and attempts to resolve their relationships with each other have resulted initially in much controversy.

Olive-sided flycatcher

The olive-sided flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is a passerine bird. It is a medium-sized tyrant flycatcher.


Paleopsilopterus is an extinct genus of giant flightless predatory birds within Cariamiformes. It is usually attributed to the subfamily Psilopterinae of the family Phorusrhacidae, or "terror birds", though doubts about such an identity have arisen multiple times. It lived around 53 to 50 million years ago (Itaboraian) in Brazil, during the Early Eocene. The only known species is Paleopsilopterus itaboraiensis. Fossils of Paleopsilopterus have been found in the Itaboraí Formation at São José de Itaborai in Rio de Janeiro state.


Paracrax ("near curassow") is a genus of extinct North American flightless birds, possibly related to modern seriemas and the extinct terror birds. Part of Bathornithidae (though some analysis recover it as closer to the living seriemas instead, or possibly entirely out of Cariamiformes), it is a specialised member of this group, being cursorial carnivores much like their South American cousins, some species attaining massive sizes.


Passerea is a clade of neoavian birds that was proposed by Jarvis et al. (2014). Their genomic analyis recovered two major clades within Neoaves, Passerea and Columbea, and concluded that both clades appear to have many ecologically driven convergent traits.

According to Jarvis (2014), these convergences include the footpropelled diving trait of grebes in Columbea with loons and cormorants in Passerea; the wading-feeding trait of flamingos in Columbea with ibises and egrets in Passerea; and pigeons and sandgrouse in Columbea with shorebirds (killdeer) in Passerea. For Jarvis (2014), these long-known trait and morphological alliances suggest that some of the traditional nongenomic trait classifications are based on polyphyletic assemblages.

Passerea was not recovered in other studies.

Red-legged seriema

The red-legged seriema (Cariama cristata), or crested cariama, is a mostly predatory terrestrial bird in the seriema family (Cariamidae), included in the Gruiformes in the old paraphyletic circumscription, but increasingly placed in a distinct order Cariamiformes (along with three extinct families). The red-legged seriema inhabits grasslands from Brazil south of the Amazon to Uruguay and northern Argentina. It is estimated that its range covers an area of 5.9 million km2, although it is not found everywhere in this region. The species is absent from the Mata Atlântica and planalto uplands along the coast of Brazil. Like the black-legged seriema, farmers often use them as guard animals to protect poultry from predators and sometimes human intruders.


Strigogyps is an extinct genus of prehistoric bird from the Middle Eocene to Early Oligocene of France and Germany. It was probably around the size of a large chicken or a guan, weighing not quite 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). Apparently, as indicated by the ratio of lengths of wing to leg bones, S. sapea was flightless. Its legs were not adapted to running, so it seems to have had a walking lifestyle similar to trumpeters. Unlike other Cariamiformes, which appear to have been mostly carnivorous, Strigogyps specimens suggest a herbivorous diet.

The type species of Strigogyps is S. dubius, which was described by Gaillard in 1908. It was initially placed in the owl order Strigiformes and considered to be a sophiornithid. S. dubius is based on a single tibiotarsus from the Late Eocene to Early Oligocene Quercy phosphorites of France. This tibiotarsus was destroyed in World War II during the bombing of Munich, but casts remain. In 1939, Gaillard described a second species of Strigogyps, S. minor, based on a humerus, two coracoids, and two carpometacarpi, also from Quercy. In 1981, Mourer-Chauviré redescribed S. minor as Ameghinornis minor, the only member of the new phorusrhacid subfamily, Ameghinornithinae. Ameghinornis was later placed in its own family, Ameghinornithidae. In 1987, Peters named another monospecific genus of ameghinornithid, Aenigmavis sapea, based on a nearly complete skeleton from the Middle Eocene Messel pit of Germany. Mayr (2005) found Aenigmavis to be a species of Strigogyps, S. sapea, and found Ameghinornis to be synonymous with S. dubius, as they both came from Quercy, and are almost identical except for coracoids and carpometacarpi of Ameghinornis, which Mayr found to be unlike other ameghinornithids, and probably from an idiornithid.

In 1935, Lambrecht described a new New World vulture, Eocathartes robustus, and a hornbill, Geiseloceros robustus, from the Middle Eocene (Lutetian) of the Geisel Valley of Germany. Each was based on a single specimen, and they were found very close together. Mayr (2007) found them to be synonymous and a species of Strigogyps, S. robustus.Recent studies (Alvarenga and Höfling 2003, Mayr 2005) have found Strigogyps to be a more basal member of Cariamae, and not particularly close to the phorusrhachids. Salmila robusta, another bird from Messel was found to be more basal than Strigogyps, and the clade composed of Salmila and Cariamae to be the sister taxon to Psophiidae within a monophyletic Gruiformes.Fragmentary remains from the Palaeocene and/or Eocene of England and North America have also been suggested to be phorusrhachids, but, like Strigogyps, they probably are not.


The Tadorninae is the shelduck-sheldgoose subfamily of the Anatidae, the biological family that includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl such as the geese and swans.

This group is largely tropical or Southern Hemisphere in distribution, with only two species, the common shelduck and the ruddy shelduck breeding in northern temperate regions, though the crested shelduck (presumed extinct) was also a northern species.

Most of these species have a distinctive plumage, but there is no pattern as to whether the sexes are alike, even within a single genus.


Telluraves (also called land birds or core landbirds) is a recently defined clade of birds with controversial content. Based on most recent genetic studies, the clade unites a variety of bird groups, including the australavians (passerines, parrots, seriamas, and falcons) as well as the afroavians (including the Accipitrimorphae – eagles, hawks, buzzards, vultures etc. – owls and woodpeckers, among others). They appear to be the sister group of a newly defined clade centered on Aequornithes.Given that the most basal extant members of both Afroaves (Accipitrimorphae, Strigiformes) and Australaves (Cariamiformes, Falconiformes) are carnivorous, it has been suggested that the last common ancestor of all Telluraves was probably a predator. Other researchers are skeptical of this assessment, citing the herbivorous cariamiform Strigogyps as evidence to the contrary.

Cladogram of Telluraves relationships based on Prum, R.O. et al. (2015) with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013) and Kimball et al. 2013.

Birds (class: Aves)
Fossil birds
Human interaction

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.