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Groove-billed Ani Life History



Groove-billed Anis inhabit open areas in the lowlands and lower foothills: grasslands, pastures, and savanna that have a scattering of bushes and trees. Over most of their range, they occur in drier environments than the closely related Smooth-billed Ani. They forage on open ground or in lower vegetation, resting during the day and roosting at night in dense bushes, thorn trees, or bamboo. In Central America, Groove-billed Anis hold year-round group territories in open, arid habitats but sometimes gather in flocks in wetlands along rivers, particularly during times of drought.

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Like many cuckoos, Groove-billed Anis are flexible eaters. Most of their diet consists of insects and small animals, but they also take small fruits and seeds. They forage on open ground or in grassy areas, hopping along and chasing insects such as grasshoppers and beetles, which they capture in quick pounces, sometimes in short flights, in the bill. They also hop along, with wings and tail flopping, through bushes and small trees, trying to spot or flush insects or small lizards. On occasion, they raid other birds’ nests and eat the eggs. Groove-billed Anis often seek out cattle, which flush prey items as they move through pastures, and anis also eat parasites such as ticks from the livestock. Anis occasionally visit swarms of army ants, which likewise flush hidden prey items. Known prey include cockroaches, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, beetles, ants, ticks, and spiders.

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Nest Placement


The nest is set in thick cover in a tree or bush, from about 2–43 feet off the ground.

Nest Description

All members of the group construct the nest, with males bringing their mates nesting materials to be placed. Nests are shallow, untidy-looking bowls made of twigs, weeds, grass, palm leaves, and roots, lined with green leaves. Nests measure about 11.8 inches across and about 3 inches tall, with interior depression about 5.3 inches across.

Nesting Facts

Egg Description:

Turquoise blue with a chalky white coating. Eggs are often stained by decomposing leaves, which may help camouflage them.

Condition at Hatching:

Helpless, blind and unfeathered, with black skin.

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Ground Forager

Groove-billed Anis are highly gregarious birds that live communally, in groups of up to 5 pairs. Within these groups, pairs are mostly monogamous in their mating system. During the breeding season, pairs separate from the group and males defend their mates against approaches by other males, at least until the female has laid eggs. No courtship display is known, but males often bring insects or a leaf to the female, which may signal her favor by accepting the token and then mounting him. Most pairs remain together year-round and for multiple breeding seasons. All females within the group lay eggs in a communal nest, and all members of the group share incubation and chick-feeding duties. Once the young have fledged, they remain with the group for several weeks before dispersing.

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Low Concern

The Groove-billed Ani is common in the New World tropics, but it is uncommon in Texas, where it occurs only in the southern part of the state. Populations there were roughly stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million and rates the species a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. A 2016 report estimated at most 5,000 breeding individuals in the U.S. portion of the range.

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Bowen, Bonnie S. (2002). Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Rosenberg, K. V., J. A. Kennedy, R. Dettmers, R. P. Ford, D. Reynolds, J. D. Alexander, C. J. Beardmore, P. J. Blancher, R. E. Bogart, G. S. Butcher, A. F. Camfield, A. Couturier, D. W. Demarest, W. E. Easton, J. J. Giocomo, R. H. Keller, A. E. Mini, A. O. Panjabi, D. N. Pashley, T. D. Rich, J. M Ruth, H. Stabins, J. Stanton, and T. Will (2016). Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan: 2016 Revision of Canada and Continental United States. Partners in Flight Science Committee.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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