Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the March 17, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

Speaking of bird similarities, last week when I took our four visitors from Washington State along the reservoir they got very excited about seeing a bird I've thought of as a "weed bird" for so long that when I spotted it I didn't even think of pointing it out to them. It was a Groove-billed Ani, shown below:


Anis are largish, all-black birds with long, round- pointed tails. "They look like grackles with somebody else's head," one of the visitors said, and that's right. In this area one becomes so accustomed to seeing and hearing raucous Great-tailed Grackles, which are the same size and all-black like anis, that the more subdued anis can be overlooked -- even though they're common, too.

As you can see in the above picture that the attention-getting thing about a Groove-billed Ani is its short but very thick, curved-topped bill which is longitudinally furrowed with "grooves." The grooves are easy to see if the light is just right -- which it isn't in the photo. I have no idea how these grooves benefit the bird. The un-grooved Smooth-billed Ani of southern Florida and the Caribbean gets along perfectly well without them.

Despite their similar black color and size, anis aren't closely related to grackles. In fact, anis are members of a completely different bird order, the Cuckoo Order, which besides anis also holds cuckoos and roadrunners. Two features uniting anis with cuckoos and roadrunners are these: