Physical Characteristics

Sunbitterns range from 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 centimeters) in length and 6.3 to 7.8 ounces (180 to 220 grams) in weight. They have long, slender necks and black heads with two extended white stripes above and below the eyes. The eyes are red in color. Their bills are long and straight. The upper part of the bill is black in color, while the lower bill is bright orange. Sunbitterns have orange legs. When they have their wings open, a bright sunburstlike pattern of black, yellow, and red markings appears. These are actually intended to frighten away potential predators. Sunbit-terns also have long, broad fan-shaped tails marked with striking chestnut and black stripes. When the wings and tail are folded, the bright colors are concealed and the sunbittern blends in well with its environment, being either brown or chestnut-colored with black bars on the back, and paler on the neck and belly. Male and female sunbitterns tend to be fairly similar in appearance, though males are sometimes more brightly colored.

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