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Sungrebes: Heliornithidae

Sungrebe (heliornis Fulica): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Sungrebes are black on top of the head and on the back of the neck. The throat is white, the back is brown, and the belly is pale in color. The males has a dark upper bill, whereas the female's upper bill is red. The lower bill is pale in both sexes. Sungrebes have yellow and black striped feet. Sungrebes vary from 10.2 to 13 inches (26 to 33 centimeters) in length and 4.2 to 5.3 ounces (120 to 150 grams) in weight.

Geographic range: Sungrebes are found in the New World, from southeastern Mexico through most of Central America and South America as far as Bolivia and northeastern Argentina.

Habitat: Sungrebes occupy river, stream, pond, and lake habitats in forested areas, usually with dense, overhanging vegetation.

Diet: Sungrebes eat primarily aquatic insects. They catch their food on the water surface, or, less frequently, on land.

Behavior and reproduction: Sungrebes are territorial throughout the year, with males defending a length of shoreline usually about 590 feet (180 meters) long. In the northern part of its range, sungrebes breed in the spring. Elsewhere, they breed during the rainy season. Females lay two to three eggs which hatch after ten or eleven days. Both parents help incubate the eggs. The male carries the chicks in pouches under the wings.

Sungrebes and people: No significant interactions between humans and sungrebes are known.

Conservation status: The sungrebe is not considered threatened. However, due to the extreme shyness of the species, it is uncertain how populations are doing. ∎



Ali, S., and S. D. Ripley. Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1996.

Perrins, Christopher, ed. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2003.

Web sites:

"Family Heliornithidae (Finfoots)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Heliornithidae.html#Heliornithidae (accessed on April 28, 2004).

"Heliornithidae (Finfoots)." The Internet Bird Collection. http://www.hbw.com/ibc/phtml/familia.phtml?idFamilia=47 (accessed on April 28, 2004).

"Sun-Grebes, Finfoots." Bird Families of the World, Cornell University. http://www.es.cornell.edu/winkler/botw/heliornithidae.html (accessed on April 28, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsSungrebes: Heliornithidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Sungrebe (heliornis Fulica): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, SUNGREBES AND PEOPLE