Does This Look Like a Heron? Boat-Billed Heron


Maybe the way it stands. This funny looking bird, a Boat-billed Heron, is found in Costa Rica. I saw them when I was there on research. They certainly look very little like the herons of New York. I wish I photographed the birds in nature, but these birds currently reside at the Buffalo Zoo in the M&T Rainforest Falls Exhibit. It is a large free-flight exhibit with a variety of colorful birds.

This bird is not only funny looking, it looks shifty and a little grumpy all the time. It has those giant eyes for night hunting and it is a little disconcerting when one of these birds is looking right at you. Not like they could hurt you, just like they want too. But of course, I get that feeling with a lot of zoo animals, but at least you are not invited into their enclosures!


Boat-billed herons are found in mangrove swamps near rivers and wetland. This is similar to our herons, some of which came here from places like Costa Rica. The green heron is found both places. In the gallery below, the males raise their crest and both birds chatter with their beaks. The female below looks a little annoyed. Since they look the same, I am not absolutely sure which one is the female.

Check out last post on marsh birds to see a Black-crowned Night Heron. I can see a little similarity to that bird.

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17 Responses to Does This Look Like a Heron? Boat-Billed Heron

  1. Mike Powell says:

    What an interesting looking bird. The body sure looks like that of a heron (the little ones like the Green Heron and the Black-crowned Night Heron), but it’s hard to ignore the large eyes and bill. The eyes make sense for night hunting, but I am curious about the shape of the bill. I wonder what they eat.

    • donna213 says:

      Hi Mike. I think they eat the same things as other heron, fish and small amphibians. I saw them scooping the water’s surface to capture food, but they also lunge like a heron we are all used too. At least they did this feeding behavior in Costa Rica. These birds are in Mexico too.

  2. Those are great shots. Even in an enclosed space, they’re difficult to photograph.

    • donna213 says:

      They were a bit more difficult because of the lighting and reflections. That big glass structure was hard to eliminate from the photos unless getting in close. We had fun that day.

  3. Phoenix Tears Healed says:

    aw, I think they are cute 🙂

  4. I have never seen a Heron like this – pretty cool looking – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Happy Hump Day!

  5. Debra says:

    ha ha As HP Lovecraft might say: the geography is all wrong. What an interesting bill … makes me wonder what they eat.

  6. Pat says:

    They are unusual looking.

  7. milliontrees says:

    We saw boat-billed herons in San Blas, Mexico. We stayed in a charming family-run motel named after the boat-billed, Garza Canela, in Spanish. The name of the motel was selected by a famous bird guide who was asked to name his favorite bird. San Blas is a lovely little town and the birds are great. Unfortunately one of the reasons why there are many birds is that there is a huge population of biting insects.

  8. A.M.B. says:

    No, that does not look like a heron! It’s such an interesting looking bird.

  9. Wow that is one strange and cool looking bird…I really love when he displays his head feathers.

  10. I also saw these Boatbills in Costa Rica last year. They do look quite strange, as I’m so used to the pointed beaks of the herons that I see back in Florida.

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