Sunbittern


Eurypyga helias


43-48 cm, medium sized heron like birds, long straight pointed bill, long slender neck, long protruding tail.  Legs and feet are orange yellow.  Head is black with two white stripes above and below the eye.  Throat is white, neck and breast brown with fine black stripes.  Tail is gray and white with two broad black bands.  When folded, the wings match the cryptic coloration of the back which has blackish stripes and stripes of olive, gray, and white.  When open the wings appear large.  The top surface of each wing has a large chestnut colored patch on a yellowish background (spots may resemble eyes to a predator). 

Family

Eurypygidae

Order

Gruiformes

Class

Aves

Range

Columbia, Venezuela, and the Guyanas south through Amazonia to East Bolivia and Central Brazil, Southern Mexico to Northwest Peru

Habitat

Humid neotropical forests with an open understory, near rivers and streams

Life Expectancy

Over 30 years in captivity

Sexual Maturity

2 years

Diet

In the wild, flies, spiders, dragonflies, cockroaches, beetles, snails and crustaceans, small fish, tadpoles, and frogs.

Status

IUCN - Least Concern

Behaviors

Tend to be wary, but not shy. When encountered they turn towards a predator and flash open their wings with their large "eye spots". Rarely are two Sunbitterns seen together, except when at the nest. They start nesting in the early wet season, March-May. Clutches consist of 1-2 eggs, with both the male and female incubating them. Incubation lasts 29-30 days. Chicks are cared for by both parents until they fledge at 22-30 days. Sunbitterns do not migrate and some may maintain their territories year round.

Adaptions

Special Interests

Native peoples of Brazil and Venezuela often keep tame sunbitterns around their houses. They are prized for their spider and fly catching abilities.

Folklore

Conservation

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Emerald Forest Aviary