Family Sunbittern (Eurypygidae)

Least Concern

Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias)


French: Caurale soleil German: Sonnenralle Spanish: Tigana

Ardea helias


, 1781,

north-eastern Amazonian Brazil


Some morphological and behavioural affinities with Rhynochetidae and Rostratulidae respectively. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. h. major Hartlaub, 1844 – Northern Sunbittern – Guatemala to W Ecuador; possibly also S Mexico.
  • E. h. meridionalis Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1902 – Foothill Sunbittern – SC Peru (Junín and Cuzco).
  • E. h. helias (Pallas, 1781) – Amazonian Sunbittern – Colombia, Venezuela and the Guianas S through Amazonia to E Bolivia and C Brazil.
  • Descriptive notes

    43–48 cm; 188·5–295 g. Unmistakable. Cryptically coloured, with straight bill, slender neck and long tail; two white lines cross blackish head; upperparts... read more


    Large number of vocalizations, mainly trills (either ascending or descending, long or short, harsh... read more


    Humid forests with open understorey, near water, in form of streams, rivers, ponds or lagoons; from... read more

    Food and feeding

    Many aquatic organisms, both invertebrate and vertebrate, including flies, moths, spiders, dragonflies, beetles, cockroaches, katydids,... read more


    Nests at beginning of rainy season, when mud available to enable nest construction; late Mar in Costa Rica, early May–early Aug in... read more


    Sedentary. Short displacements may occur in highly seasonal habitats where water dries up, birds... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Status poorly known, due to inconspicuous nature; no figures available for overall numbers or densities. Species widespread, but... read more

    Recommended citation

    Thomas, B.T. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2019).