Spectacular Sunbittern show on the Rio Taus

Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias): Garza del Sol; Sonnenralle; Caurale soleil

The Sunbittern is a bird of such beauty that I practically went weak at the knees the first time I found one here in Costa Rica. Since then, it has been relatively easy to find in our area, including within a few minutes’ walk of the house.

But tonight I simply have to add yet another report of this wonderful bird because of an unusually close encounter that John, Steven and I had on our recent trip to Tausito at the junction of the Rio Taus with the Rio Pejibaye. A small family of three was involved – here are the proud parents:

Sunbittern parents; photo by John Beer

Split in Gondwana (!!) from three other related families by continental drift millions of years ago, the Sunbittern is the sole member of its family, Eurypygidae, and of its genus, Eurypyga. There are three subspecies of Eurypyga, two of which are in South America, while our Costa Rican Eurypyga helias major is found from extreme southern Mexico and Guatemala south to western Ecuador (source: Avibase). Yes, it’s simply unique bird. Here’s the juvenile bird, looking John in the eye:

Head shot; photo by John Beer

The juvenile was the first bird we found and it allowed an amazingly close approach:

The spotting on the wings of this juvenile are much reduced in comparison to that of the parents

No reason to be scared ……

Is John getting too close?

…….. because mummy and daddy are never far away:

Parent Sunbitterns doing a bit of bill snapping; photo by John Beer
Mom (I believe) decides it’s time for a dip now; photo by John Beer
So happy together; I assume the female Sunbittern is the much smaller bird of the two; photo by John Beer

In one respect, however, this family did NOT cooperate – they didn’t show us why they’re called Sunbirds. Here’s why:

A great file photo of a Sunbittern wing display taken at the CATIE canal in July 2019, Turrialba; photo by John Beer

All photos were taken by John near the end of a wonderful trip to Tausito, where we easily recorded more than 100 species of birds and still had time for sandwiches and a cold beer. See the next post for some highlights.

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