Thanks to the folks over at Rainforest Journeys
for posting this image and piquing my interest in this most beautiful bird - known as La Tanrrilla to those where it lives in Southern Mexico to northern Bolivia, central Brazil and southern Peru - and as the Sunbittern or Eurypyga helias to the rest of us.
is, taxonomically speaking, a rather lonely species. As this page on the Order Eurypygiformes
explains that the:
Eurypygiformes is a clade formed by the Kagu, comprising two species in the Rhynochetidae family endemic to New Caledonia, and the Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) from the tropical regions of the Americas ... The Eurypygiformes's affinities are not too well resolved.
They are two families from a Gondwanan lineage of birds.
Suggested by some morphological characteristics they were initially classed as members of the family Ardeidae and later the Gruiformes.
When seen as a gruiform, the Kagu is generally considered related to the extinct adzebills from New Zealand and the Sunbittern from Central and South America. Recent studies do indicate that the Sunbittern is the closest living relative of the Kagu.
But there is more that is fascinating about La Tanrrilla
than it's obscure lineage. At first glance it is just another beautiful cryptically-plumaged denizen of the thick tropical swamps and jungles where La Tanrrilla stalks slowly on long, bright orange legs, with their snakelike necks and long sharp beaks held low to the ground looking for prey. They seldom fly.
But the real beauty of La Tanrrilla is only revealed when they are under threat or as part of their elaborate courtship rituals when they spread their glorious wings to reveal a truly magnificent display of colour and light.