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Smooth-billed Ani - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Crotophaga ani)
Photo © by Deca
Gonçalves, Mato Groso, Brazil, August 2003

Alternative names: Black Witch, Tick Bird

Crotophaga ani


35 cm (13¾ in)
Overall black with a faint bluish iridescence on neck, wings and tail, and a strong, vaguely parrot-like bill.

Tail is long and rounded, and the flight looks weak with rapid wing-beats alternating with glides.

Feathers on neck and head often are broadly edged in medium grey without the iridescence, at least on birds from the eastern Caribbean.

Photo © by the late Jan Van den Broeck
Nassau, Bahamas, November 2007

Similar Species

Easily mistaken for the Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) in the area of overlap. The Smooth-billed is slightly larger and its bill has a more arched culmen (esp. noticeable at basal part of culmen, where downward curve towards forehead is stronger than in Groove-billed) and no grooves in the upper mandible. They can also be separated by the voice.

Confusion also possible with the Greater Ani, which is larger, longer-tailed, longer-billed, has a more iridescent plumage and yellow eyes (careful; juv. Greater Ani with reduced iridescence and dark eyes similar to those of the Smooth-billed).


The Smooth-billed Ani is found from Florida, USA where rare (accidental records further north) and south through the West Indies. In Central America, found in Mexico (Quintana Roo) and from Costa Rico south to Panama and large parts of South America, to the Pacific lowlands in Colombia and Ecuador, and east of the Andes everywhere north of northern Argentina. Additionally found in the Galápagos Islands where introduced.

Even with the weak flight, it is still thought to make periodic invasions from the Caribbean to Belize Cays.


This is a monotypic species[1].

Photo © by Raybel
Grand Cayman, 5 January 2013


Occurs in several habitats, mostly open areas and lowlands or even in areas disturbed by human activities, including second-growth forest.


They are often seen in large groups, jumping from perch to perch in low branches.


The diet consists mainly of insects, but they can be seen eating some fruits.


As is the case with most cuckoos of the Americas, they are not parasitic, but build their own nest.

During the breeding season, they live in pairs, or more commonly, in larger groups of up to 17. They are renowned for communal breeding, in which a number of females lay eggs and incubate in the same nest. Any late-laying females bury those eggs with twigs and leaves, (thus creating a number of layers of eggs) before laying their own on top. Only the last layer will hatch.

As many as 36 eggs has been found in a single nest.

They live in clans where helpers assist in rearing the new young of the season.


They alternately flap and glide on a linear route. Their call is echoed by others in the clan who then follow the leader in single file.


A whining call, ah-nee, ah-nee, ah-nee. This is often delivered while perched on high branches, usually the highest.


  1. Clements, J. F., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Bird Forum Member observations
  4. Quinn, J. S. and J. M. Startek-Foote (2020). Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.smbani.01

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