Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias).JPG
on Cristalino River
Southern Amazon, Brazil
Scientific classification edit
Selby, 1840
Illiger, 1811
E. helias
Binomial name
Eurypyga helias
(Pallas, 1781)
Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) Area.svg
Sunbittern range

Ardea helias Pallas, 1781

The sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) is a bittern-like bird of tropical regions of the Americas, and the sole member of the family Eurypygidae (sometimes spelled Eurypigidae) and genus Eurypyga. It is found in Central and South America, and has three subspecies. The sunbittern shows both morphological and molecular similarities with the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) of New Caledonia, indicating a gondwanic origin, both species being placed in the clade Eurypygiformes.[3]


The sunbittern is usually placed in the Gruiformes, but this was always considered preliminary. Altogether, the bird is most similar to another bird that was provisionally placed in the Gruiformes, the kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus).[4][5] Molecular studies seem to confirm that the kagu and sunbittern are each other's closest living relatives and have a similar wing display.[6][7] They are probably not Gruiformes (though the proposed Metaves are just as weakly supported).[8] Altogether, the two species seem to form a minor Gondwanan lineage which could also include the extinct adzebills and/or the mesites, and is of unclear relation to the Gruiformes proper. Notably, the kagu and mesites also have powder down.


The sunbittern was formerly treated as two species (E. helias and E. major), but now they are treated as a single species with considerable variation between the subspecies. The three subspecies are recognised on the basis of plumage characters and size. The three subspecies are allopatric.[3]

  • E. h. helias (Pallas, 1781) – Amazonian sunbittern
  • E. h. major Hartlaub, 1844 – northern sunbittern
  • E. h. meridionalis Berlepsch & Stolzmann, 1902 – foothill sunbittern
Other Languages
asturianu: Eurypyga helias
azərbaycanca: Günəş vağı
български: Слънчева чапла
brezhoneg: Bongorz-heol
català: Ocell sol
Cymraeg: Crëyr haul
dansk: Solrikse
Deutsch: Sonnenralle
español: Eurypyga helias
Esperanto: Sunbirdo
français: Caurale soleil
한국어: 뱀눈새
italiano: Eurypyga helias
עברית: סופית שמש
lietuvių: Sauliapaukštis
magyar: Guvatgém
Nederlands: Zonneral
norsk: Solrikse
norsk nynorsk: Solrikse
português: Eurypyga helias
svenska: Solrall
українська: Тігана
Tiếng Việt: Eurypyga helias
中文: 日鳽