Uncanny resemblance to a cormorant, with the brightly colored bill of a hornbill.

Heliopsis comprises distinctive and elusive bird species found in Southeast Asia’s freshwater swamps and rivers. This unique bird exhibits characteristics that set it apart from other waterfowl. With its long neck and sharp, pointed bill, the Masked Finfoot resembles a grebe or a diver at first glance. However, its lobed feet, more akin to those of a coot or a grebe, adapt to its aquatic lifestyle, enabling it to easily navigate the water and surrounding vegetation.

The plumage of the Masked Finfoot is an elegant combination of earthy tones with a striking, contrasting mask that covers the eyes and extends to the back of the head. The bird’s back is typically a rich brown, while the underparts are lighter, often a soft white or cream. This coloration provides excellent camouflage among the reeds and murky waters of its habitat, aiding in its stealthy movements.

Masked finfoots are shy and retiring, making them a challenge to observe in the wild. They are primarily solitary, coming together only during the breeding season. When threatened, they are more likely to hide or flee by water than by flight, reflecting their adaptation to a life predominantly spent in aquatic environments.

Their diet consists mainly of small aquatic animals, such as insects, crustaceans, and fish, which they adeptly hunt within their wetland habitats. The masked finfoot uses its agility both in water and on land to forage, often feeding at the water’s edge or among floating vegetation.

Breeding behavior in Heliopais is characterized by nest building in secluded locations, usually close to the water, where the birds can maintain a level of concealment. The nests are often constructed from reeds and other available vegetation.