- ORDER: Cuculiformes
- FAMILY: Cuculidae
An ungainly bird that seems only loosely stitched together as it moves, the Smooth-billed Ani is a glossy black cuckoo with an oversized bill. Almost always seen in groups, these birds traipse through tangled, shrubby habitats in the tropics of South America and the Caribbean; there's also a small and declining population in Florida. They eat insects and lizards as well as fruit, especially during the dry season. Groups do almost everything together, with females laying all their eggs in a single communal nest tended by all group members.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In their Caribbean and Central/South American range, Smooth-billed Anis are relatively common in wet, shrubby or thorny habitat. Look for them early in the morning, when they are most conspicuous and vocal. Finding Smooth-billed Anis in Florida is difficult: this once-common bird has become very scarce. Try using eBird or other sources of local knowledge to track them down, as it is a needle in a haystack to find one otherwise.
- Garrapatero aní (Spanish)
- Ani à bec lisse (French)
- Cool Facts
- Smooth-billed Anis look rather like large songbirds, but they are in a different taxonomic order. They are related to cuckoos and roadrunners. One distinguishing feature of this group is their feet, which are "zygodactyl"—with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward.
- Smooth-billed Anis often forage in vine tangles, thorn trees, bamboo, and reeds, using their outsized upper mandible to knock leaves out of the way as they keep their eyes trained on their prey.
- Smooth-billed Anis (and other ani species) have unusual social lives. They live in small groups of 1–5 breeding pairs, and up to 17 individuals. All the females lay their eggs in one communal nest. All group members incubate the eggs and care for the young.
- While a group of Smooth-billed Anis forages, one member often sits on a high perch as a lookout, watching for danger.
- When several Smooth-billed Anis lay eggs in the same nest, they often bury older eggs with twigs and leaves, creating layers of eggs (up to 36 in one nest). Only the top layer eventually hatches.
- Juvenile Smooth-billed Anis that hatch early in the summer often stay with their family group as the birds begin a new nest; the newly fledged birds then help feed youngsters from the second nest.