Sunbittern

Eurypyga helias

This slender aquatic bird with mottled plumage lives on the banks of rivers and lakes in the South American jungle. It has highly characteristic markings on the back of its wings and tail, with stripes and patches of different colours that, seen from the front as the animal takes off, make it look much larger. 

Breeding program

ESB_Zoo_Captura

Natural habit

Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela

Sunbittern
  • Distribution / Resident
  • Breeding
  • Wintering
  • Subspecies

Risk level

  • Extint
  • Extint in the wild
  • Critically endangered
  • In Danger
  • Vulnerable
  • Near threatened
  • Minor concern
  • Insufficient data
  • Not evaluated
Preocupació menor

Taxonomy

Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Eurypygidae

Physical characteristics

189 g
Birth Weight:
43 -48 cm
Up to 7 years

Biology

Habitat
Wetlands
Social life
Gregarious
Feeding
Carnivorous

Reproduction

Gestation
30-32
Days
Baby
1 to 2

Discover how they are

Biology

Description

This stylised bird with spotted and striped plumage on its entire body, especially the dorsal and wings, is earth coloured, turning reddish at the neck, while the wings and tail are colourful, with reds, greys and blacks. It has a white supraciliar stripe continuing to the nape, a white malar band that ends at the neck, and a white forehead and throat. The irises are a reddish colour and it has a long, strong and blunt beak, with a black upper mandible and pale yellow lower mandible. It has a highly-characteristic pattern at the top of its wings, with brown, black, grey, yellow and white stripes that, seen from the front when it unfolds its wings, conveys the sensation that we are looking at a much larger bird with an intimidating stare. For this reason, the colouring is a defence against intruders.

Habitat

It lives on river banks and next to streams in the jungles of South America.

Feeding

It feeds on aquatic invertebrates and their larvae, as well as amphibians and small fish.

Reproduction

The breeding season starts at the beginning of the wet season, when there is enough mud and suitable plant matter for building their nests. They build their nests—a mud basket with branches and diverse plant matter—in low branches and trees, generally close to the water or the same river courses they inhabit. The same pair normally uses the same nest each year. They lay one or two light pink eggs that both the male and female incubate for close to 30 days. They also have another behaviour to distract possible predators that get close to the nest, consisting of pretending it has a broken wing.

Conduct

It is sedentary, resident and non-migratory around its distribution area. There is only some mobility with birds in areas that suffer from severe droughts.

Status and conservation programs

It is still common in many regions of their large area of distribution.

 

The Barcelona Zoo participates in this species’ ESB.