Groove-Billed Ani

Crotophaga sulcirostris
Range Map

Groove-Billed Anis are resident in most of their range from either coast of the Mexican mainland, south to northern and coastal northwestern South America, with a little migration to breed in southern Sonora. In south Texas they are at home in arid lowlands and live in family groups. These very social members of the cuckoo family stay together in small colonies. They live in social groups of 1–5 pairs and defend a group territory. All females of a breeding group lay their eggs in a single nest, and the joint clutch is incubated and cared for by all members of the group.

These birds are members of the cuckoo clan (family Cuculidae), which includes roadrunners and cuckoos. One thing that sets them apart from other bird groups is their feet. They have two toes pointing forward and two pointing back, in an arrangement that science calls a zygodactylous. There are no recognised subspecies of Groove-Billed Ani (they are monotypic).

While on a February 2017 science expedition to the Revillagigedo Islands, 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Mexico, I met one of these birds on Isla Socorro. This flock-loving bird was alone and must have felt very out of place and isolated. My 2020 spring expedition to south Texas yielded additional meetings at Resaca de las Palmas, west of Brownsville (Texas).

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