A Smooth-billed Ani glides into a viney thicket and disappears from view. It carries a clump of grass in its big bill, and tucks it into a bulky nest. Then another ani appears, providing a contribution of twigs. More follow. All told, twelve anis build a single nest.
Later, the group's four reproductive females each lay four or five pale blue eggs in the nest. Most members share in incubating and protecting them during their two-week period of development.
This cooperative association allows more young anis to fledge, but it seems the individual's interests override those of the group--during the next few days, each female will toss one or two eggs (other than her own) from the nest!
The Smooth-billed Ani is a tropical bird found nowhere in the U.S. but south Florida. This strange bird is in the same family as the roadrunners and cuckoos, most of which have long slender bodies and long tails.
The ani's voice is a shrill, drawling "weu-ik, weu-ik," often emitted on the wing. Abundant in the West Indies and South America, the ani has been given several local names, including black witch, black bird, and tick bird, the last from its habit of eating ticks that infest cattle.
Although the ani's diet consists mostly of insects, (including Great Southern White butterflies) it also feeds on lizards, snails, berries and seeds. In addition to picking insects from cattle, anis follow cattle and eat the insects they stir up.
Smooth-billed Anis live in open fields and pastureland, usually near water. They are normally found in flocks of six to twenty birds. Anis have nested at nearby Eco Pond in the past few years. Anywhere from six to eight birds have been sighted there with an occasional Groove-billed Ani. In more recent years, only one Smooth-billed Ani has been seen ("Little Orphan Ani"), but on a regular basis anywhere around the pond. Look for this peculiar tropical influence around Eco Pond at all times of the day. It is the only local bird with black plumage, a long body and tail, short wings, and a high, almost parrot-like bill.
Last updated: October 17, 2017