Saturday, 2 February 2013

Boat Billed Heron

order : Ciconiiformes      Genus & Species : Ardeidae     Family : Cochlearius cochlearius

Living a reclusive life in the depths of swamps, the boat-billed heron feeds at night, then spends its days roosting among the thick trees and brush. The exaggerated eyes and bill of the boat-billed heron give it an unusual appearance, but these features serve it well during nighttime hunts. They found in limited equatorial regions of Central and South America, from southern Mexico into Bolivia and northern Argentina. 

Habitat : The boat-billed heron makes the its home in the warm equatorial swamps of Central and South America, ranging from Mexico to northern Argentina. When hunting, the heron prefers slow-moving or still water surrounded by heavy vegetation. The boat-billed heron chooses higher branches in trees with dense foilage for nesting, but it will spend its days roosting closer to the ground. It prefers the deep cover of mangroves or similar brush. Its choice of living conditions contributes to the heron’s reclusive reputation, since its habitat is largely inaccessible to man.This, along with its being active only at night, means some biological aspects of the heron remain unknown. 
Food & Feeding : The boat-billed heron feeds mainly at dusk and at night. Scooping up food in its large, curved bill, the heron’s enormous, circular eyes give it superior night vision, allowing it to spot potential prey in almost total darkness. Even without its keen night vision, the boat-billed heron would be a formidable predator to small marsh animals.The bill is the most specialized feeding adaptation of the boat-billed heron. It has an incredible level of sensitivity that allows the heron to feel even the most minute movements in the water. Primarily a solitary feeder, the boat-billed heron waits patiently and silently for prey to approach. Its most common victims are small crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, insects and small fish that it scoops up by the mouthful in its large bill.The large bill is also used to rake muddy bottoms, where it can turn up mollusks, annelids and insect larvae. 
Behavior : Essentially a shy and mysterious bird, the boat-billed heron is unlikely to be seen in the open during daylight hours, leaving cover only at dusk to feed throughout the night. As one of the most nocturnal species of herons, it spends its day sleeping completely hidden in the bushes. The boat-billed heron is nonmigratory, as its native habitat is essentially within warm equatorial regions. Normally a mated pair of boat-billed herons will return to the same nest for many years during the breeding season and while rearing young. Pairs of boatbilled herons mate for life. 
Breeding : At breeding time, both the male and female boat-billed heron perform preening and billclattering displays to attract a mate. Mated pairs will stay together for several weeks, often returning to the same flat stick nest for many seasons.The boat-billed heron typically builds its nests in thick branches 12–30’ above the ground, though it may make use of nests abandoned by other birds if the opportunity presents itself. Mating season for the boatbilled heron depends on the amount of rainfall in its particular region. Pairs wait for the rainy season when food is plentiful before the female lays 2–4 eggs. Incubation and rearing of the helpless chicks is shared. 


Bill : The bill, which may be up to 2" wide, is used for scooping up small invertebrates and dredging the bottom of lakes and pools for other edibles. 
Plumage : Adult herons have specialized feathers that never molt; instead, they fray from the tip and grow continuously. As they fray, they turn to a powder that helps protect other feathers.The heron uses the powder to remove slime and oil. 
Feet : The boat-billed heron has unwebbed feet with strong toes.The heron roosts in trees, and its claws are designed for grasping branches. 
Juvenile : The young heron’s downy feathers are gray-brown with occasional buff, pink and cinnamon highlights.The juvenile achieves its blue-gray adult coloration after its third molt. 


Weight : 4–7 oz.
Length : 17.5-24"
Wingspan : Up to 30"
Breeding Season : Varies with location 


The boat-billed heron is the only species of bird whose chicks are born with two teeth used to peck through the shell when hatching.