I was recently in Ecuador and while I certainly expected to add a few birds to my life list while touring the jungle, I hadn’t expected to discover my first Groove-billed Ani (Crotophagasulcirostris) while strolling my son in an urban park in
largest city. Guayaquil, Ecuador
I spotted my first Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in
Florida back in 1993 and have not seen one
since. Anis are slightly larger than a Blue
Jay (Cyanocitta cristata),
members of the Cuckoo family and look like a cross between a crow and a parrot.
Their distinctively stout bill clearly separates this tropical black bird from
During our stay in
my wife, son and I stayed with my in-laws in Guayaquil,
a sprawling 125 square mile city on the banks of .
Their modest, three bedroom home in the heart of the city played host to
grandparents, aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins and many friends during our
stay. The size of this close-knit “family” seemed as expansive as the city and
it was clear that not only was every friend and family member welcome in this
home, each of their homes were a welcome extension of the family compound. (I
believe the 85+ cousins were raised together and are genuinely close.) Guayas River
|© Pete Corradino|
Taking no exception to this, but finding it somewhat unfamiliar, I would clear my head on a daily basis by strolling my son down the street to the local park where I discovered my second ani. The locals playing basketball eyed me suspiciously as I photographed the birds. To most people I suspect, the anis are just birds. Upon closer inspection of the photos I realized that not only were the birds anis, but they were Groove-billed Anis with distinct ridges along the bill.
Groove-bills nest in
and are occasional visitors to Florida
and other states. They are also found throughout Central America and along the
coast from Columbia down to Peru. Both
species of anis are unique in that they are communal breeders. Only three
percent of bird species exhibit such behavior. Essentially one to five
monogamous pairs of anis defend a territory and build a single nest in which
the females lay their eggs. Each member is involved in incubation of the eggs
and care of the young, but this does not exclude all competition. Occasionally
females will push eggs out of the nest that are not their own to assure the successful
hatching of theirs.
I spotted two pairs of anis in the park during strolls with my son, an only child. As I wheeled him back to his grandparent’s home I considered the effort required for two people to raise one child versus many parents helping raise many kids. With such a loving family, I can’t imagine any cousins have ever been kicked out of the nest.