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August 1, 2015:  Mention an Ani, and most people aren't familiar with that species of bird.  I've described them to non-birding friends as a cross between a raven and a cuckoo.  Kenn Kaufman's Lives of North American Birds adds the puffin's bill  into the "looks like" mix.  Both the Grove-billed and the Smooth-billed Ani are stocky black birds, like Ravens, although much smaller.  The Groove-billed Ani weighs about 3 ounces and averages 13.5 inches with a 17-inch wingspan.  The Smooth-billed Ani is only one inch larger and weighs about 3.5 ounces while a Common Raven weighs in at 2.5 pounds with a 53-inch wingspan.  Both Anis have long tails and an upright stance on the branch, like Cuckoos.  Both species are relatively shy birds preferring to sit deep in the brush.  They often look disheveled, with drooping wings and spread-out tail feathers.  And, of course, their bill is large with a big hump, like some puffins.

Maps show the Smooth-billed Ani (above) as a year-round resident in the southern half of Florida, but the locals at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach, think the pair spotted on the Marsh Trail in mid-July will be the first to breed on the property in many years.  The pair has started multiple nests, but as of July 15, has not moved in and started a family.  Brdbrain posts also document a sighting at Jonathan Dickinson State Park on July 21.

The Groove-billed Ani (left) is a true rarity in Florida which made the pair found at Lake Apopka Northshore Restoration Area in December 2014 very exciting.  They are more reliably found in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas where they feed in flocks in pastures or perch on tree limbs with their wings spread to catch the sun.  While difficult to see in the photos, the bird at the left does have a series of grooves in the hump of his/her bill.

Both species feed mostly on large insects but supplements their diet with fruits and berries, when available.  Both species use communal nests, with 1 to 5 pairs building a large nest where all the females lay eggs eggs in the same nest.  Groove-billed Ani females may attempt to toss out the eggs of other females.  All the adults help to incubate the eggs and care for the young.  Smooth-billed estlings climb out of the nest before they can fly; the age of first flight is not documented.  Groove-billed Ani youngsters leave the nest after 6-7 days, can fly poorly at about 10 days and become proficient flyers at about 17 days of age. 

Chuck Tague captured the photo of the Groove-billed Ani above.

Information was gathered from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman and The Sibley Guides to Birds.

Share the beach w/nesting birds; tips from Nat'l Aud. How to remove fishing line from a hooked bird
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