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Sapayoidae – Sapayoa

Sapayoa in Panama: Photo by Chris Fischer

The Sapayoa is a unique bird found in the lowland rainforests of Central and South America. It is the only member of its family, making it a significant evolutionary outlier. Despite its New World range, it is genetically linked to Old World suboscines, reflecting an ancient lineage. Its drab greenish-brown plumage and elusive nature make it a rare sight for birdwatchers.

Overview of Sapayoidae

The enigmatic Sapayoa is the sole New World representative of the Old World suboscine radiation. This species inhabits the sub-canopy in the extremely wet Chocó forests, which extend along the Pacific coast from Panama to northern Ecuador. Its few known nests resemble those of broadbills, made from fibers and hanging above streams. The olive-green bird perches motionless on branches, darting out to catch large passing insects. The male has a usually concealed yellow crest in its olive crown. Molecular analyses have only recently uncovered its distinctive heritage, and details of its natural history are just beginning to emerge.