Sunbittern Eurypyga helias

Type of Animal:

Wetlands, areas near water, edges of tropical lowland freshwater areas w/ muddy banks, banks of streams/creeks, riverbanks, forests, lowlands, shady stream shores, small wooded pool shores, dense second growth thickets near water, jungle streams, foothills, found from sea level to 6,000 ft

Far S Mexico, Central America & N South America

Long legs, slender neck, long bill, small head, stout body, body plumage brown w/ darker stripes, head blackish w/ white striping above/below red eyes, brown neck/breast/shoulders, whitish belly/throat/ventral feathers, rich orange-chestnut patches near wing tips, lower bill/legs orangish-yellowish

Fish, amphibians, insects, insect larvae, grubs, crustaceans, spiders, earthworms, snails, small reptiles, mice

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, & wildlife centers

Male-female pairs or solitary

Additional Info:

Male: Cock
Female: Hen
Young: Chick
Group: Pair

Male: 7-10.4 oz
Female: 6.63-7.44 oz
Young: 3 oz

1 month 

Life Span:
15 years in wild, 20 years in captivity

1.42-1.67 ft

Body Length:
1.42-1.67 ft

Tail Length:
0.8 in

Main predators of adults are raptors, snakes, crocodilians, & felids. Monkeys & small mammals prey on chicks.
Nests made of sticks/mud/decaying vegetable material.
Catch/strike prey quick using spear-like bill/long neck.
Rather quiet but sometimes make mechanical rattling sound.
Walk more often than fly.
Sexually mature at a year old.
1-3 chicks stay w/ parents for 3-4 months.
Courtship involves soft, low calling & swaying side to side w/ intermittent bill clacking.

Fun Fact(s):
Chicks tend to be very precocial & inquisitive.
Though bittern in name, they’re not closely related to bitterns (which are herons). Closest relative is Kagu of New Caledonia.
Sometimes kept by humans in native range as biological pest control.
If predator approaches nest, a parent will do broken-wing display to distract it.
Named for sun-like orange-chestnut part on primary wing feathers/across tail. Birds display/spread wings as threat/defense display, typically accompanied by bowing/low hissing. Spots on wings can be mistaken for eyes.
Very shy in wild but somewhat tame in captivity.

2 thoughts on “Sunbittern


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