Long ago I promised an extensive gallery of Boat-billed Herons Cochlearius cochlearius but I never got around to it.  Now that the summer doldrums have arrived I felt like it was necessary to fulfill my promise and dig up some shots for posting.  All of these pictures were taken during my visit to Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, Honduras, in March of this year.  Just editing these pics made me want to go back to the steamy heat of the mangrove estuary…but not until winter and not until the whole coup thing works itself out.

Boat-billed Herons live in mangroves from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil.  BirdLife International lists it as a species of least concern, because of its large population and wide range.  They are nocturnal, and in stature and behavior are much like night-herons.  Information about their breeding behavior (below) is from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens:

Mated pairs do a great deal of ritualized mutual preening, which serves to strengthen the pair bond. The male erects its long crest in courtship display and both clatter vigorously with their beaks.  Boatbills nest alone or in small colonies that may include other species of water birds. Each pair defends a three dimensional territory around the shallow stick nest.  A clutch is 3 to 4 pale greenish-blue eggs, sometimes bearing small red flecks, is laid at roughly 2-day intervals. Incubation begins with the first egg and the chicks are altricial. Both sexes share in nest building, incubating and feeding the chicks.  They nest in trees, bushes or occasionally in reedbeds.  Incubation period is 21-26 days.  Nestling period is 6-8 weeks.

While we were not fortunate enough to see Boat-billed Herons on nests, as we were too early in the breeding season for that, we did get to see a bit of a mating display, and an attempt by a male to curry favor with a female by offering a stick.  Even without seeing occupied nests or young it was a treat to see these fascinating and well-named creatures.

Hopefully someday soon I’ll be back flaoting through the mangroves looking for Boat-billed Herons!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.