Smooth-billed AniCrotophaga ani

adult
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
juvenile
Claude Nadeau/VIREO
adults
Bill Gozansky/VIREO

Description

John James Audubon and other early naturalists failed to find the Smooth-billed Ani in Florida, but it became a regular nesting bird there during the 1930s and was fairly common for several decades. Recently it has become very scarce again and may disappear from Florida.

Habitat

Brushy edges, thickets. In Florida, usually found where dense brush stands next to open fields, pastures, or marshes. In its tropical range, found in a variety of brushy or semi-open habitats in the lowlands, mainly in humid areas. Generally avoids unbroken forest.

Feeding Diet

Mostly large insects. Feeds on insects including grasshoppers, beetles, moths, caterpillars, and others. May take external parasites from cattle. Also eats spiders, snails, and often small lizards. Will consume many small fruits and berries at some seasons, also seeds. May sometimes eat eggs of other birds.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, hopping and running rather clumsily; will also forage well up in bushes. In pastures, often associates closely with cattle or other grazers, catching the insects flushed by the larger animals.

Nesting

Often nests communally: one or more pairs (perhaps as many as five pairs) will work together to build one large nest; then each female lays eggs there, and all the adults help to incubate the eggs and care for the young. Nest site is in dense shrub or tree, 5-30' above the ground, usually fairly low. Nest (built by both sexes, apparently by all adult members of group) is a bulky bowl of twigs and weeds, lined with leaves. Eggs: About 4 blue eggs laid by each female in group; nest may have up to 20 or more eggs. Incubation is by both sexes and apparently involves all adults in group, about 14 days. Young: Apparently fed by all adults in group; may climb out of nest before old enough to fly. Age at first flight not well known.

Eggs

About 4 blue eggs laid by each female in group; nest may have up to 20 or more eggs. Incubation is by both sexes and apparently involves all adults in group, about 14 days. Young: Apparently fed by all adults in group; may climb out of nest before old enough to fly. Age at first flight not well known.

Young

Apparently fed by all adults in group; may climb out of nest before old enough to fly. Age at first flight not well known.

Conservation

In Florida, apparently increased through middle part of 20th century; has declined again since 1970s. In tropics, has increased as clearing of forest has created more open habitat.

Range

Present in southern Florida at all seasons, but some may move back and forth between Florida and Cuba.

Listen

calls
calls

Similar Species

adult male

Boat-tailed Grackle

Until the 1970s, this big blackbird was considered to be the same species as the Great-tailed Grackle, but the two forms overlap on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana without interbreeding. The Boat-tail is a more aquatic creature, nesting in marshes, scavenging on beaches. Except in Florida, it is seldom found far away from tidewater. Boat-tailed Grackles nest in noisy colonies, the males displaying conspicuously with much wing-fluttering and harsh repeated calls.

adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

Wherever it occurs, this big blackbird is impossible to overlook -- especially the male, with his great oversized tail and incredible variety of callnotes. In the southwest, flocks of Great-tailed Grackles feed in open country during the day, but often come into towns at night, forming noisy roosting aggregations in the trees in city parks. During recent decades, this species has greatly expanded its range within our area, and it is still spreading north in some areas.

adult male Coastal (Purple)

Common Grackle

Throughout the east and midwest, this big blackbird is a very familiar species on suburban lawns, striding about with deliberate steps as it searches for insects. Common Grackles often nest in small colonies, and several males may perch in adjacent treetops to sing their creaking, grating songs. Big flocks are often seen flying overhead in the evening, heading for major communal roosts, especially from late summer through winter.

adult

Groove-billed Ani

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Vireo

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