Boat-billed Heron in flight

Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius): Pico cuchara; Kahnschnabel; Savacou huppé

Adult Boat-billed Heron in flight at CATIE; photo by John Beer

In the Turrialba area the CATIE lake is virtually the only location in which to find this nocturnal and very atypical heron. Several eBird reports marked Rancho Naturalista seem to be from visiting birders based at the lodge and whose sightings lists incorporate a visit to CATIE, some 10 km away. I first encountered the species in lagoons, its most natural habitat, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, but it can be found in Costa Rica on both sides of the country . The Boat-billed Heron is a medium-sized heron but has a massively broad, mostly black bill. This is its chief distinguishing feature, but just look at the size of the eyes in the photo below!

Female or possibly immature Boat-billed Heron at CATIE; photo by John Beer

It’s still perhaps a little early in the year for the bird featured in these final photos to be an immature, but the Boat-billed nests in the rainy season so that even with an incubation period that lasts almost one month it is quite possible. Nesting is almost always colonial but I don’t believe that the CATIE nest site has yet been properly monitored in terms of numbers and am unable for the moment to venture a guess as to the exact size of the population. The highest count I can find is 11 individuals but this may not include fledglings. Perhaps other local birders can contribute some more detailed information.

Flap and glide – Boat-billed Heron at CATIE; photo by John Beer

Look for the CATIE lake to be featured yet again in my next post.

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