Heliornithes

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Heliornithes

 

a suborder of birds of the order Gruiformes. The body length measures 28–62 cm. The bill has perforate nostrils. The toes are lobate, and the claws are sharp. The tail is wedge-shaped, and the plumage is dense. The suborder comprises one family with three species: the African finfoot (Podica senegalensis) distributed in Africa south of the Sahara, the American finfoot (Heliornia fulica) distributed in Central and South America, and the Asian finfoot (Heliopais personata) of Southeast Asia. The birds swim well but rarely dive; they move rapidly on dry land. They settle along riverbanks and lakeshores in dense forests. Their nests are on the limbs of trees overhanging the water, often on piles of debris remaining after high water.

The nesting habits are known only for the American finfoot. There are two eggs per clutch, and both the male and female incubate them for about 11 days. The young are hatched blind and almost completely naked. The male carries them under his wings in special “pockets” formed on the sides of his body by folds of skin and feathers. The Asian finfoot has five-seven eggs per clutch.

The finfeet feed on insects, small crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, and the green parts of plants; they gather food by swimming along the banks or shores.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.