I've been wanting to see a Groove-billed Ani for about seven years now. These birds breed from S. Texas throughout much of Mexico and Central America and parts of South America. There has been no record in my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana since 1999 and there are very few records anywhere in Louisiana in the last 15 years. Formerly they were found in late fall and winter in south Louisiana. The reasons for decline are unknown.
Yesterday one showed up in Cameron Parish in Louisiana. And today one showed up 15 minutes away from my house at the Bluebonnet Swamp. I rushed over as quickly as I could. People were already there and I was able to see it immediately. He was hanging around the meadow right off the boardwalk. These birds eat large insects almost exclusively, especially grasshoppers and katydids. So we watched as he'd disappear to feed on or near the ground in the weedy and brushy areas then he'd pop back up briefly, but usually in a bramble of bushes and vines.
Finally he perched on a small but barren Devil's Walking Stick tree and there were finally no distracting leaves and branches and I was able to see him in good light. He was well lit and the iridescence in his feathers as well as the beautiful subtle patterns on his chest were in full view. The grooves in his bill were also quite visible.
So, a nice morning with quite a nice surprise. What a fantastic looking bird with an equally fantastic call.
*It's also interesting to note that Groove-billed Anis have a highly unusual breeding system: they are communal, with several pairs defending a group territory against other groups, and all females of the group laying eggs in same nest.
To read more about these birds visit: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Groove-billed_Ani/id