110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Sun bitterns are secretive, camouflaged birds
By Lynn Bowen
posted May 5, 2014 - 10:03:30am
The sun bittern’s natural habitat is from Mexico to Brazil in humid forests on wooded banks of streams and creeks.
This 18-inch beauty has a stout body, a long, slender neck, and a long tail. The charcoal-colored head has a white stripe both above and below the red eyes. The two-toned, long bill is black on top and orange on the bottom. The long legs are orange also.
The colors of this marsh bird are amazing to behold. I was delighted by the intricate barred and striped design of black, gray, brown, white and olive on the bird’s back. Its neck, breast and shoulders are brown, but its belly, throat and undertail are white.
The middle of each wing has an eye-like spot of red, yellow and black, with a gorgeous rippled design around it that the bird shows when it feels threatened or is in the courtship mood. This bird prefers to walk rather than to fly, but soars gracefully with slow wing beats when necessary.
The sun bittern forages on the ground, and scratches for part of its diet of large insects. It also eats small fish, crawfish, frogs, toads, newts, shrimps and crabs.
The conservation status of sun bitterns is “of least concern” -- in other words, they are very common in their tropical home. They live up to 15 years.
Sun bitterns are not social; they travel alone or in pairs just like their cousin, the American bittern here in the U.S. These secretive bitterns stay camouflaged and hidden, making them difficult to see in the wild. In fact, their looks and actions earned them their name since they look like the setting sun as these exotic plumed birds tiptoe slowly in the shadows of trees, reeds, plants and leaves.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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