The Chocuaco or boatbill

Chocuaco or boatbill

The Boat-billed heron is a curious bird you can spot in Tortuguero all year. Here in Costa Rica and other countries of Latin America is better known as the “Chocuaco”, a funny name we personally didn’t find the origin of yet. We dedicate this article to one of the most curious-looking birds you can find just some steps away from the Turtle Beach Lodge Hotel.

chocuaco boated-bill heron resting on a branch

The bill or beak of the chocuaco

The first thing that will call the attention is the long bill. These bills are very important for their feeding. As herons, they lurk in shallow waters waiting for their prey to show up. Contrary to the rest of the heron family, the beak is wide The bills are used to dig in the mud or the sand too. This is why the chocuaco can localize mollusks, small crabs, and other small animals. Transportation is another use for the bill. Parents carry the food they captured to their chicks. Despite the bill looking sturdy, probably it is very sensitive. The scientists hypothesize that the chocuaco can localize their food at night thanks to this sensitivity. If this is proven, we can say the bill is some sort of radar that allows the chocuacho to localize and chase their prey.

The appearance of the Boat-billed Heron

The chocuacho has some sort of fluffy appearance. That is because their feathers are small and fine. Big eyes and long legs. They have long necks but not as long as other species of herons. If you find them during daylight, they will be resting their head over their body, shirking their neck to the point that one could think there’s no neck. The chest of this heron can be brown, their wings are most of the time grey in color. The feathers over their heads are black and there is a crest present that is used when the chocuaco feels in danger. The eggs are blueish and they put up to four or five eggs in their nest. The diet of these birds varies from small insects and mammals to mollusks and fish. As we mentioned before, they are nocturnal creatures, rarely feeding in daylight. During the day, they spend time resting over tree branches, while accompanying other chocuacos, so they can overwatch over the colony.

The Chocuaco Trail

sign showing the way to a trail

The Turtle Beach Lodge Hotel is very near a mangrove that a colony of chocuacos chose as their home. Our trail set the right distance between our guests and the birds, so they won’t feel threatened. You can watch them and take pictures while they rest. Also, there you can find strawberry dart frogs, iguanas, and smaller species of amphibians, birds, and reptiles. Snakes are present too but do not worry as we provide you with an expert guide and the right gear to avoid any issues. The trail is 30 minutes long. The tour could take more as you’ll find species of animals and plants you want pictures of. Our guides will be patient and give you the time to take the photos.

toad resting over a tree root

Come to Tortuguero with us and enjoy this and many other wonders of nature. Check our packages now.