Name of the Animal

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Scientific Name:  Cochlearius Cochlearius

Geographical Range: South and Central America

Habitat: Wooded or mangrove fringes of freshwater creeks, lakes and marshes.  It roosts in the day time in bushes or trees overhanging water.

Diet in the Wild:  Insects, shrimps, fish, amphibians, and small mammals.

Conservation Status: Not protected.

Location in the Zoo: By the By the yellow-billed stork.

Physical Description:
Stocky, medium-sized (18-20 in) mostly black and white.  Sometimes buff heron with a huge black bill.  Head is black, with a crest of long black lanceolate plumes that are most extravagant during the mating season.  The huge eyes bulge out from the face.  The upper back is black, the rest of the back and upper wings are grapy.  The under parts are a rich rufous.

Social Organization::

How the Boat-billed Heron communicates with other birds are quite different than the way in which the regular heron does.  Most Boat-billed Herons communicate through sounds that it makes, both vocal and mechanical such as bill-pops that sound like human handclaps.  This is different from the visual gesturing that regular herons do.  Also, it feeds alone, flying from the communal roost to independent feeding areas.  Occasionally it will feed in aggregations.

Special Adaptations:
 Their boat-like beak makes it possible to waddle through water and stab their prey with their beaks, or scoop of shrimp and other mud-dwelling prey.

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Reproductive Behavior:
Breeding timing is variable, generally in the rainy season.  The heron nests solitarily or in small groups of a few to a dozen pairs, but also joins mixed heronries.  The eggs are pale blue to green, often with spotting.  Clutch size is usually three eggs, range one to four eggs.  Incubation is 26 days.  The young are at first fed entirely at night.  The adult is aggressive in defending the young from all intruders, a behavior not typical of herons.

The Animal at the Zoo:
History of the animals at the zoo, your personal observations of the animal.

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Page Author:
Donna Cropp and

Sources and Links:
Michael Hutchins, Jerome A. Jackson, Walter J. Bock, and Donna Olendorf, ed.  Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia Second Edition.  Vol 8.  Farmington Hills, MI:  Gale Group, 2002.  258-259.

Elbert Greer

“The Boat-Billed Heron”


Brad Hazelton, Fort Worth Zoo.



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Mammals at the Fort Worth Zoo
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Invertebrates at the Fort Worth Zoo