At a Glance

John James Audubon and other early naturalists failed to find the Smooth-billed Ani in Florida, but it became a regular nesting bird there during the 1930s and was fairly common for several decades. Recently it has become very scarce again and may disappear from Florida.
Category
Cuckoos, Roadrunners, Anis, Perching Birds
Conservation
Low Concern
Habitat
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Region
Florida
Behavior
Flap/Glide, Formation
Population
20.000.000

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Present in southern Florida at all seasons, but some may move back and forth between Florida and Cuba.

Description

14" (36 cm). A big, long-tailed, loose-jointed bird. Like Groove-billed Ani but with higher peaked ridge on bill (and lacks grooves there).
Size
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Color
Black
Wing Shape
Fingered, Rounded
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Slurred double note with a rising inflection that has a whining, metallic quality; quite different from that of the Groove-billed Ani.

Habitat

Brushy edges, thickets. In Florida, usually found where dense brush stands next to open fields, pastures, or marshes. In its tropical range, found in a variety of brushy or semi-open habitats in the lowlands, mainly in humid areas. Generally avoids unbroken forest.

Behavior

Eggs

About 4 blue eggs laid by each female in group; nest may have up to 20 or more eggs. Incubation is by both sexes and apparently involves all adults in group, about 14 days. Young: Apparently fed by all adults in group; may climb out of nest before old enough to fly. Age at first flight not well known.

Young

Apparently fed by all adults in group; may climb out of nest before old enough to fly. Age at first flight not well known.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, hopping and running rather clumsily; will also forage well up in bushes. In pastures, often associates closely with cattle or other grazers, catching the insects flushed by the larger animals.

Diet

Mostly large insects. Feeds on insects including grasshoppers, beetles, moths, caterpillars, and others. May take external parasites from cattle. Also eats spiders, snails, and often small lizards. Will consume many small fruits and berries at some seasons, also seeds. May sometimes eat eggs of other birds.

Nesting

Often nests communally: one or more pairs (perhaps as many as five pairs) will work together to build one large nest; then each female lays eggs there, and all the adults help to incubate the eggs and care for the young. Nest site is in dense shrub or tree, 5-30' above the ground, usually fairly low. Nest (built by both sexes, apparently by all adult members of group) is a bulky bowl of twigs and weeds, lined with leaves.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

In Florida, apparently increased through middle part of 20th century; has declined again since 1970s. In tropics, has increased as clearing of forest has created more open habitat.