Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Groove-billed Ani

Crotophaga sulcirostris

These ungainly cuckoos are sociable at all seasons, feeding in flocks on the ground in south Texas pastures. When resting, several may sit hunched side by side on the same branch. Sometimes members of a flock will perch in the sun with their wings spread out as if to dry.
Conservation status Numbers in United States probably stable. Has probably increased in tropics as clearing of forests has created more habitat for them there.
Family Cuckoos, Roadrunners, Anis
Habitat Thick brush, overgrown pastures. In the United States, found mostly where dense thickets are next to open grassland, pastures, or marshes, or at edges of low riverside woods. In the tropics, inhabits any kind of semi-open country in the lowlands, avoiding unbroken forest.
These ungainly cuckoos are sociable at all seasons, feeding in flocks on the ground in south Texas pastures. When resting, several may sit hunched side by side on the same branch. Sometimes members of a flock will perch in the sun with their wings spread out as if to dry.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by hopping and running on the ground; will also forage in bushes, especially to eat berries. Often associates closely with cattle in open pastures, catching the insects flushed by the larger animals. In a similar way, at the edges of tropical forest, will follow swarms of army ants to eat the insects or other creatures flushed by the ants.


Eggs

3-4 (perhaps sometimes more) laid by each female in group. Eggs pale blue. Females may attempt to throw out each other's eggs. Incubation is apparently by all adults in group (dominant male usually incubates at night), 13-14 days. Young: Fed by all adults in group. Young climb out of nest after about 6-7 days, can fly poorly at about 10 days, can fly well at about 17 days. Sometimes 2 broods per year.


Young

Fed by all adults in group. Young climb out of nest after about 6-7 days, can fly poorly at about 10 days, can fly well at about 17 days. Sometimes 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly large insects. Feeds on insects including grasshoppers, beetles, and others. May take external parasites from cattle. Also eats spiders, lizards, other small creatures. Will feed on small fruits and berries.


Nesting

In courtship, male feeds female. Often uses communal nest: one to 4 pairs will work together to build nest, then the female of each pair will lay eggs in the nest, and all adults will help incubate the eggs. In addition to the breeding pairs, group may include extra adult "helpers." Nest site is in low tree, usually 5-15' above ground, sometimes lower or higher. Nest (built by both sexes) is bulky and bowl-shaped, made of twigs, lined with green leaves.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Found year-round in southern Texas, but much more common there in summer. In winter, small numbers move north and east along Gulf Coast. Sometimes strays well north of breeding range, especially in fall.

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Migration

Found year-round in southern Texas, but much more common there in summer. In winter, small numbers move north and east along Gulf Coast. Sometimes strays well north of breeding range, especially in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft, liquid, gurgling notes and, if alarmed, rather loud harsh calls. Also a rollicking wee-cup.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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