Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunbittern

Eurypyga helias
Yesterday we learned about the Yellow Bittern, a small Heron that lives in southeast Asia. Just looking at the names, you would assume that today's animal would be a very similar creature... but interestingly, they are not closely related at all. They belong to completely different Orders and don't even live in the same Hemisphere. Crazy how common names work, huh?

The Sunbittern is actually a pretty remarkable bird in that it doesn't really have any close relatives at all. It is the sole member of its entire Family, and appears to shares an Order only with a bird called the Kagu that lives on the opposite side of the planet. Both birds were once classified as Gruiformes (alone with Cranes and Rails), but now they've been placed in their very own unique little group.

Sunbitterns live in Central and South America, ranging from Mexico down to Brazil. They are typically found in forests that are close to bodies of water.

Wing Display
On first glance, the Sunbittern may not look like anything special. They have long bills, striped faces, and body feathers that are barred with black, brown, and grey. But wait till they open their wings! They have bright red and yellow eye-spots that are used in displays to scare off rivals or predators, and to also aid in courtship. This wing display is one thing that they share in common with the aforementioned Kagu.

Like yesterday's Yellow Bittern, the Sunbittern forms monogamous bonds. Both parents build a nest (a domed structure up in the trees), and both help to incubate the eggs. The pair remains solitary, and will rarely intact with other members of the species. (This lifestyle can make them very difficult to find in the wild).

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : South and Central America
Size : Length up to 24in (60cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Eurypygiformes
Family : Eurypygidae -- Genus : Eurypyga -- Species : E. helias

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