One of the most dazzling of all the world’s birds; the intricate yellow, red, and black pattern on the spread wings is truly otherworldly. A bird with plumage so stunning, and colors so eye-catching, he’s almost otherworldly.
MEET THE SUNBITTERN
The sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) is a bittern-like bird living in the tropical regions of the Americas that shares many physical characteristics with other Bitterns. Their plumage is black, grey, and brown. The flight feathers are vividly colored in the center and when the wings are spread – exhibit a pattern that resembles bright eyespots in red, yellow, and black. The bird has a generally subdued coloration, with fine linear patterns of black, grey, and brown. Its remiges however have vividly colored middle webs, which with wings fully spread show bright eyespots in red, yellow, and black. These are shown to other sunbitterns in courtship and threat displays or used to startle potential predators. The color of the legs and feet ranges from yellowish-orange to reddish. The bill is long and pointed.
Male and female adult sunbitterns can be differentiated by small differences in the feather patterns of the throat and head.
Like some other birds, the sunbittern has powder down.
These birds have a range that stretches from southern Mexico through Guatemala to southern Peru and Brazil in South America. They are resident (non-migratory) birds.
Sunbitterns like to live in humid Neotropical forests with an open understory as well as near rivers and streams.
Sunbitterns consume a wide range of animal prey. Insects form an important part of the diet, with cockroaches, dragonfly larvae, flies, katydids, water beetles, and moths being taken. Other invertebrate prey includes crabs, spiders, shrimps, and earthworms. They will also take vertebrate prey including fish, tadpoles, toads and frogs, eels, and lizards.
Sunbitterns start nesting in the early wet season and before it starts they make flight displays 10–15 m (33–49 ft) high in the forest canopy. They build open nests in trees and lay two eggs with blotched markings. The young are precocial but remain in the nest for several weeks after hatching.
Sunbitterns are also one of 12 species of birds in five families that have been described as fishing using baits or lures to attract prey within striking distance. This type of behavior falls within the common definition of tool use. In sunbitterns, this behavior has only been observed in captive birds so far.