Natural history and reproductive biology of the communally breeding Greater Ani (Crotophaga major) at Gatún Lake, Panama

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The Greater Ani (Crotophaga major) is the least well-known of the communally breeding crotophagine cuckoos, although it is locally abundant in Panama and northern South America. We present substantial new life history information from 87 breeding groups of Greater Anis at Gatún Lake, Panama, and the first description of their conspicuous, highly stereotyped communal displays. Breeding groups were composed of two to five socially monogamous pairs; no pairs nested singly. Seven groups also included an unpaired individual, which in three cases was confirmed to be a 1-year-old male from the previous year's nest. Groups of two and three pairs were most common (accounting for 75 and 20% of groups, respectively); groups containing more than three pairs were rare and their nests were abandoned before incubation began. Eggs were large (∼17% of adult body mass) and varied greatly in size (19-37 g). Egg and nestling development were exceptionally rapid: eggs were incubated for 11-12 days and nestlings were capable of leaving the nest after 5 days, although adults continued to feed fledglings for several weeks. On average, each female laid 4.3 ± 0.9 eggs; three-pair groups had larger overall clutch sizes than did two-pair groups. The first 2-3 eggs to be laid were usually ejected from the nest by other group members, and number of ejected eggs increased with group size. Thirty-seven nests (43%) fledged at least one young successfully; snakes (Pseustes, Spilotes, Boa) and white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capuchinus) were identified as nest predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-687
Number of pages9
JournalWilson Journal of Ornithology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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