Cancroma cochlearius Linnaeus, 1766, Cayenne. Five subspecies.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Savacou huppй German: Kahnschnabel; Spanish: Martinete Cucharуn, Pato Pico de Barco.
The boat-billed heron is a stocky, medium-sized (18–20 in [45–51 cm]) mostly black and white and sometimes buff heron, with a huge black bill. The head is black, with a crest of long, black, lanceolate plumes that are most extravagant during the nesting season. The huge eyes bulge out from the face. The upper back is black, the rest of the back and upper wings are gray. The underparts are a rich rufous. During breeding the mouth lining, lores, and gular area turn black.
The boat-billed heron occurs in South and Central America.
It primarily uses wooded or mangrove fringes of freshwater creeks, lakes and marshes. It roosts in the day time in bushes or trees overhanging water.
Despite its great bill, this species for the most part feeds like a typical heron by standing, sometimes for many minutes, usually in a crouched posture. It also walks in its crouched, hunched-backed posture with very slow deliberate steps on the ground or along branches and roots. It sometimes uses a rhythmic movement of the body but not the head. It sometimes walks very quickly or runs about. It also feeds non-visually by wading along with its bill partially submerged thrusting it forward in a scooping motion with each step. During the day it perches in dense trees and bushes, and also retreats there when disturbed. When roosting, its large bill rests on its breast or under a wing. It uses its crest for communication, raising it in response to disturbance and as a greeting display. This is a noisy heron, having a raucous laughing call that is a commonly heard sound along the tropical mangroves and inland forests. Also makes a popping noise with its bill.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
It feeds nocturnally and crepuscularly although it occasionally feeds during the day. It feeds alone, flying from the communal roost to independent, probably defended, feeding areas. Occasionally it will feed in aggregations. The diet is broad and includes insects, shrimps, fish, amphibians, and small mammals.
Breeding timing is variable, generally in the rainy season. The heron nests solitarily or in small groups of a few to a dozen pairs but also joins mixed heronries. The eggs are pale blue to green, often with spotting. Clutch size is usually three eggs, range one to four eggs. Incubation is 26 days. The young are at first fed entirely at night. The adult is aggressive in defending the young from all intruders, a
not typical of herons.
Not threatened. The species is widespread and found in suitable
throughout its range. There is little information available on population sizes and status, but it is not rare.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
This is the most unusual of the herons, with its huge bill, unusual
s, and evolutionary distinctiveness from other herons. It is well known locally where it occurs, especially due to its calls from nesting colonies.
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