The Anhinga, sometimes called Snakebird, Darter, American Darter, or Water Turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word Anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. When swimming the origin of the name snakebird is apparent: only the colored neck appears above water, so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike. They do not have external nares (nostrils) and breathe solely through their epiglottis.
The Anhinga is placed in the darter family, Anhingidae, and is closely related to Indian (Anhinga melanogaster), African (A. rufa), and Australian (A. novaehollandiae) Darters. Like other Darters, the Anhinga hunts by spearing fishes and other small prey using its sharp, slender beak. [Wikipedia]
The A. Anhinga species is a large bird and measures approximately 89 cm (35 in) in length, with a range of 75–95 cm (30–37 in), with a 1.14 m (3.7 ft) wingspan. The A. a. Anhinga subspecies is larger than A. a. leucogaster and has “broader buffy tail lips.” They weigh on average around 1.22 kg (2.7 lb), with a range of 1.04–1.35 kg (2.3–3.0 lb). The bill is relatively long (about twice the length of the head), sharply pointed and yellow as are the webbed feet.
Most of the male Anhinga’s body is a glossy black green with the wings, base of wings, and tail being a glossy black blue. The tip of the tail has white feathers. The back of the head and the neck have elongated feathers that have been described as gray or light purple-white. The upper back of the body and wings is spotted or streaked with white.
The female Anhinga is similar to the male except that it has a pale gray-buff[ or light brown head, neck, and upper chest. The lower chest or breast is a chestnut color, and as compared to the male, the female has a more brown back.
This bird is often mistaken for the Double-crested Cormorant due to its similar size and shape, although the two species can be differentiated by their tails and bills. The tail of the Anhinga is wider and much longer than that of the Cormorant. The bill of the Anhinga is pointed, while the bill of the Cormorant has a hook-tip. [Wikipedia]
A bird of southern swamps, the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water. [All About Birds]
Anhinga Facts [All About Birds]
- The Anhinga is frequently seen soaring high in the sky overhead. It is a graceful flier and can travel long distances without flapping its wings, much in the manner of a Turkey Vulture.
- The oldest Anhinga was at least 12 years old.