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Adult © Cameron Carver
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Adult © Michael Schmitz

Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris

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Anis are bizarre, coal-black cuckoos with long floppy tails and unique, curiously tall, flattened bills. Groove-billed occurs in a variety of open and semi-open habitats in tropical lowlands and foothills, typically staying low in shrubs and grasses. Gregarious and not particularly graceful; usually seen crashing around awkwardly in small groups. Flies with choppy wingbeats and long glides. Widespread and common throughout Middle America, as far north as Texas. In South America, primarily occurs west of the Andes; also in inter-Andean valleys and lowlands of northern Colombia and Venezuela. Compare with the very similar Smooth-billed Ani, which overlaps locally. Note especially the bill shape: Groove-billed typically has a lower, more evenly rounded top edge to the bill without an obvious keel, and the lower edge of the bill is straighter. Grooves are distinctive but can be difficult to see. Voice is also important: listen for a sharp “PIT!-tooee” and other sharp clicks and whistles.