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A black Crotophaga ani on a tree stump next to a pond
crotophaga ani
Crotophaga ani (Smooth-billed Ani)

The Smooth-billed Ani, a mid-sized bird in the cuckoo family. It's a resident breeding species found across a diverse geographic range, including southern Florida, the Caribbean, parts of Central America, and regions extending to western Ecuador, Brazil, northern Argentina, and southern Chile. Adults are typically around 14 inches in length, with males weighing about 4.1 ounces and females slightly lighter at approximately 3.4 ounces. Their appearance is characterized by glossy black plumage, a long tail, a deep ridged black bill, and a brown iris. Although their flight is somewhat weak and wobbly, they are adept at running and primarily feed on the ground. The Smooth-billed Ani thrives in open, semi-open, and cultivated areas, benefitting from deforestation. This species is highly social and gregarious, often found in noisy groups. A notable aspect of their behavior is communal nesting, where several pairs collaborate to build a deep cup-shaped nest lined with leaves, usually positioned 6.6 to 19.7 feet high in a tree. Multiple females lay their chalky blue eggs in the shared nest, engaging cooperatively in incubation and feeding. A single nest can contain up to 29 eggs, though more than ten hatching is rare. The species can raise up to three broods per season, with chicks from earlier broods assisting in feeding more recent offspring​​. Their diet is diverse, including termites, large insects, other invertebrates, and occasionally small vertebrates like lizards and frogs, as well as eggs and hatchlings of other birds. They also consume fruit and occasionally remove ticks and other parasites from grazing animals​​. The Smooth-billed Ani is currently classified as 'Least Concern' on the IUCN Red List. Photographed in the Valley of Cauca, Colombia.

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