“STAR ANIS”: ENTERTAININGLY GREGARIOUS CUCKOOS ON ABACO
The Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) is the third member of the cuckoo family found on Abaco, the others being the MANGROVE CUCKOO and the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. Anis range from Florida and the Bahamas in the north, down through the Caribbean to South America, where they are widespread.
Unlike their shy and retiring cuckoo cousins, anis are extrovert shouty birds that like to hang out in noisy gangs. Large groups can quite often be found in the low scrub at the Highway end of the Delphi drive; and you may well find a posse of them in settlements such as Sandy Point. You’ll probably hear them from some way off, sounding like this:
Leonardo Ordóñez-Delgado / Xeno Canto
Anis have advanced parenting and chick-rearing skills, sharing not only communal nesting sites but also egg incubation and feeding the chicks. They are also what my mother might have called ‘fast’, raising up to three broods in a season. Rather touchingly, the young of earlier broods help to feed more recent chicks.
Look for Anis in low scrubland and coppice, cultivated areas, perched in unsteady bickering rows on utility lines… and on the ground.
The appearance and flying abilities of Anis are wonders to behold. As I wrote in The Birds of Abaco, “Their curious heavy beaks, their clumsy flight and their untidy take-off and landing routines suggest a design fault”.
“One… is the loneliest number…” oh, hang on a moment…
…”two of us…standing solo in the sun…”
As far as I know, there is not yet a collective noun for a group of anis. There should be. Any suggestions welcome via the comment box. Meanwhile I put forward “A Commotion of Anis”
Credits: Becky Marvil, Nina Henry, Tony Hepburn, Gerlinde Taurer, Roselyn Pierce, Tom Shelley, Bruce Hallett; Xeno Canto for range map & sound file; Hat tip to Aimee Mann.