Boat-billed Heron (Birds)






Cochlearius cochlearius
Boat-billed Heron


• Has unusual bill that looks like a small boat hull I • A reclusive bird, it avoids humans and most
other birds
• Catches prey by wading, then scooping it into its specialized bill, rather than spearing small fish as most herons do


Found only in limited equatorial regions of Central and South America, from southern Mexico into Bolivia and northern Argentina


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 boat-billed heron makes A Peaceful perch its home in the warm During the day, the heron equatorial swamps of Central rests in thick forests.
The boat-billed heron makes A Peaceful perch its home in the warm During the day, the heron equatorial swamps of Central rests in thick forests.
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.
Some experts believe that the boat-billed heron should receive its own family classification since it differs so much from even its most immediate relations.
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.


At breeding time, both the male and female boat-billed heron perform preening and bill-clattering 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 boat-billed 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.
A Clutch performance The heron lays its eggs during the rainy season.
A Clutch performance The heron lays its eggs during the rainy season.
Feed me Herons exchange food as a part of their courting.
Feed me Herons exchange food as a part of their courting.


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.


Standing patiently
1 Standing patiently…
Motionless but attentive, the boat-billed heron watches intently for signs of movement in the water
Unsuspecting victim
2 Unsuspecting victim…
Oblivious to the heron, a frog swims through the water.The heron spots the frog and prepares to scoop up its prey.
tmpFA-62_thumbA scoop full
3 A scoop full…
The frog tries to flee but stands little chance of escape as the broad bill sweeps through the water in a wide swath.
Down the hatch
4 Down the hatch
The heron tosses its head back and swallows the frog alive and whole.The frog is destroyed by the heron’s strong digestive juices.


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 boat-billed herons mate for life.
Night life The heron emerges at dusk to begin feeding.


The lack of information about the boat-billed heron makes accurate estimates of its numbers difficult. It is believed, however, that because of the lack of predators and the near impossibility of human intrusion into its habitat, the heron populations are stable.


Boat-billed Heron

The exaggerated eyes and bill of the boat-billed heron give it an unusual
appearance, but these features serve it well during nighttime hunts.
Boat-billed Heron


Much like the boat-billed heron, its cousin the yellow-crowned night heron (Nycticorax violaceus) is fond of mangrove, cypress and river swamps.Though more widespread than the boat-billed heron, it shares its feeding habits, subsisting on a diet of smal crustaceans, insects, an occasional fish and other aquatic creatures. It resides from as far north as Nova Scotia, throughout Canada, the U.S. and Central and South America. Like the boat-billed heron, the yellow-crowned night heron has a broad, short bill built for scooping. But unlike the boat-billed heron, its bill is still sharp enough to be employed in the traditional heron Boat-billed heron Yellow-crowned night heron hunting method of spearing fish.

Weight Length 4-7 oz. 17.5-24″
WlNGSPAN Up to 30″
Sexual : Maturity
Breeding/; : Season
Unknown Varies
according to amount of rainfall ‘Jit”7′
Number 1 of Eggs 2-4
Incubation [ Period 23-28 days
Fledging Period Unknown
Breeding I Interval 1 year
Typical 1 Diet Crustaceans, insects, worms
Lifespan Unknown


• The family Ardeidae contains only 4 genera, which in turn contain about 60 species, which include all herons, egrets and bitterns. By far the largest genus is Ardeinae, which contains the 34 species of day herons. The genus Nycticoracinae contains only 8 species, and all 7 species of night herons. The boat-billed heron is the only species in the genus Cochlearius.

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