Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stuffed Animal Bird

My friend Donna was the first person that I've heard refer to a bird as looking like a stuffed animal. When she said this, she was referring to a unique bird - the Boat-billed Heron. This bird has a large, flat bill shaped like a boat - hence the name. It's definitely one of the more unique bills in the bird kingdom (not as unique as this one). It could almost be a character on the Muppets. For a real close look at its bill, you can even buy a skull replica.

The Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius) ranges throughout the New World Tropics from Mexico south to Brazil and Argentina. Similar to the night herons, they are primarily nocturnal and spend the day roosting in mangrove swamps and other wetlands. Their unique bill makes it possible to wade through water and stab their prey or scoop up shrimp and other mud-dwelling prey. When distressed, they will rattle their bills creating a sound similar to hand clapping. I photographed the heron above at CATIE in Costa Rica.

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